- Billy Joel's Advice on How to Sell a House for Top Dollar, to Pay Your Back Taxes May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Lobsters Never Die (Until We Eat Them) May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Time's Grunwald to Help Write Geithner's Book May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Good 'Ole September 10th, 2001 May 24, 2013 Chris Rossini
- 12 Technologies that Will Drive Our Economic Future May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- The Age of Authoritarianism: Government of the Politicians, by the Military, for the Corporations May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Paul Tudor Jones on How Breast Feeding Interferes with Being a Good Trader May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Rand Paul Calls for Infrastructure Fund May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Mankiw with a Flurry of Punches Against Krugman May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Could an Inside Sneak Attack on Bitcoin Destroy It? May 24, 2013 Robert Wenzel
- Wheat Belly May 25, 2013William Davis, MD, talks to Lew Rockwell about the government crop that's making Americans fat and sick.
- LBJ Had JFK Killed May 25, 2013Roger Stone says that Johnson micro-managed events, and Jack Ruby, too. Article by Patrick Howley.
- Marc Faber on Central Bank Gold Manipulation May 25, 2013They should be pushing it higher, not lower. Interview by Jim Puplava.
- Domestic Terrorism? May 25, 2013Certainly by drone, says Anthony Gucciardi.
- American Authoritarianism May 25, 2013Government of the politicians, by the military, for the corporations. Article by John Whitehead.
- Where Do Cops Come From? May 25, 2013An Eric Peters history.
- Be Neighborly May 25, 2013Marcus Brotherton on how a guy becomes a man.
- JFK Praised Hitler May 25, 2013When the future president toured Germany before WW2, or so a new book claims.
- 26 Kitchen Tips for Men May 25, 2013Enjoy the process, have fun and cook like a pro. Article by Trevor Hopkins.
- A Bad Turn in American History May 25, 2013Scott Trask on junking the Articles of Confederation.
- Wheat Belly May 25, 2013
- The Last Knight in Russia May 24, 2013 Guido Hülsmann
- Political Economy of Finance May 24, 2013 Guido Hülsmann
- Six Stage of the Libertarian Movement May 23, 2013 Mark Thornton
- Mises U on Forbes.com May 22, 2013 Mises Updates
- New Austrian Journal May 21, 2013 Mark Thornton
- Austrian Banking May 21, 2013 Mark Thornton
- Thomas Sowell on Why the Intelligencia Pay No Price for Being Wrong May 18, 2013 Christopher Westley
- Was Marx Right? May 18, 2013 Hunter Lewis
- Fed Bank President Targets Unemployment Targeters May 17, 2013 Joseph Salerno
- David Stockman Seminar in NYC May 17, 2013 Joseph Salerno
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Tag Archives: anarcho-capitalism
Michael Duffy: As it happens, we’re going to start the year with a guest from the right, but so far to the right you certainly couldn’t call him conservative. I’m not sure what you’d call him, he is right out of the ideological ballpark. His name is Hans-Hermann Hoppe and he’s a German intellectual who lives in America. He’s going to propose ways of thinking about government, society and the economy that are literally radical.
Paul Comrie-Thomson: And I think in this case, Michael, the word ‘literally’ is being used literally.
Michael Duffy: Indeed it is. Hans-Hermann Hoppe is probably the world’s leading living libertarian philosopher. He’s emeritus professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a distinguished fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Perhaps his best-known book appeared about a decade ago, and it had the challenging title Democracy: The God That Failed. His critique was from the libertarian right.
Libertarians are part of a pretty broad church, so how would Hans-Hermann Hoppe describe his position? Just where is he coming from?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I am a libertarian but there exists various wings of libertarians. I am a member of the wing that is referred to as the anarcho-capitalist libertarians or, as I prefer to say, I’m a proponent of a private law society, and a private law society is a society where the same laws apply to every individual and every institution, not just separate groups of individuals—government officials on the one hand and private citizens on the other—to whom different laws apply.
Michael Duffy: In general terms, is there one particular place that you’re coming from? Is there a sort of fixed point where you start whenever you consider a new subject or a problem? Are you interested in freedom, for example?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Of course I’m interested in freedom. I think freedom is defined precisely by the position that I take, that every individual and every situation is subject to exactly the same law and there is no group of individuals or no particular individual that has certain privileges that other people do not have.
Michael Duffy: Okay, let’s apply those beliefs to what you’ve written about the differences or the comparison between democracy and monarchy. I suspect most of our listeners would consider that democracy is a marked improvement and a dramatic difference from monarchy. How do you see the two?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: First you have to define a state because monarchies as well as democracies are states, and then in the second step we have to explain what the difference between these two types of states are. States are defined as institutions that are the ultimate arbiter in cases of conflict on a certain territory, including conflicts involving the state itself. And secondly, states are territorial monopolies of taxation. So this applies both to monarchies and to democracies.
In monarchies, the head of the state considers the territory as his private property, and the people inhabiting the state territory as his renters who owe him rent payments. And of course he uses his privilege that he has as the ultimate arbiter in any case of conflict and a person who has the right to tax individuals to his own advantage. He exploits his population. This is also true in a democracy. Taxation exists in a democracy, just as much as it exists under monarchy. Democratic states also assume that they are the ultimate arbiter in any case of conflict, including conflicts involving themselves.
And there is distinction in democracy also between public law and private law. Public officials under democracy can do many things that private individuals in their private dealings would not be permitted to do. They can tax individuals on a private level, this would be called stealing. They can tax individuals and redistribute income in the private level, that would be considered stealing and fencing of stolen goods. They can draft people into the army or force them to work for the state, which on a private level would be considered enslaving people or kidnapping people…
Michael Duffy: But people choose this, don’t they? People will vote for democracy, for democratic governments.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Yes, that brings me to the difference between democracy and the monarch. Under monarchy it is relatively clear who the ruler is and what the rules are, under democracy you can hope that you will end up on the other side, that you will be on the receiving end, and that reduces the resistance against increases of taxes, against unjust verdicts in conflicts of a situation. But the most important difference between monarchy on the one hand and democracy on the other hand is that you replace somebody who considers himself to be the owner of the country with somebody who is a temporary caretaker of the country, and that does not improve matters, it makes matters much worse.
To give you an example, if I give you a house, in one situation I make you the owner of the house so you can determine who will be the heir, you can sell the house off and keep the receipts from the sale, while in the other case I make you the temporary user of the house. You can use to your own advantage the income that you can get off the house but you have no right to sell the house, you have no right to determine who will be the heir of the house.
Will you treat the house in a different way? And the answer seems to be quite clear; yes, you will treat it in a very different way. In the one case as the owner you will be interested in preserving the value, the capital value embodied in the house. In the other case, as a democratic politician where you can only use the house but don’t own it, you will try to increase your income that you can get from the house without any regard to the capital value embodied in the house, and you will engage in capital consumption, you will want to rob the country as fast as possible because, after four years or eight years you have no chance anymore to do it. So it is far more destructive of wealth formation than monarchy.
Michael Duffy: But isn’t it the case, using your analogy, that because of elections if I want to keep the house, keep my control of the house at the end of a period of four or five years, I have to act within certain limits? In other words, elected rulers, even if they do exploit people a bit, they have to keep that exploitation within boundaries in the hope of being re-elected.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: But this is also true for monarchs. Monarchs have frequently been killed if they overstep their boundaries, and the dynasty of which they are a member is very much interested in keeping the dynasty in power. Democrats are far less frequently killed because people always have the hope that in four years somebody else will come to power. So the resistance against attempts to increase government power to increase the amount of taxes is far lower under democratic conditions than it is under monarchical conditions.
And in addition it should be said that competition for entry into government, competition is not always good. Competition is good when it comes to the production of things that are good. We do not want to have a milk monopolist, we do not want to have a car monopolist, we do want to have competition in the milk industry and the car industry, but competition is not good when it comes to producing something that is bad from the point of view of property owners. We would not want to have competition in people—who runs the best concentration camp, who is the best mugger on the street—and this is precisely the type of competition that we have in democracy.
Michael Duffy: It’s the case, isn’t it, that democracies on the whole have higher standards of living than other forms of government, and also the case that many people who do not live in democracies would like to, to the extent that we can gauge what they want. Why is that so, do you think? Are people deluded to want to live in democracies?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Democracies have won out in competition against monarchies in the course of history. The monarchical age has ended by and large with the end of World War I, so it would be unfair to say that democracies are in fact richer than monarchies because we compare the 19th and 18th century with the 20th century. Societies can grow richer despite the fact that governments grow richer. So my thesis would be if we would have kept monarchies of the style that we had in the 19th and 18th century we would be far richer than we are currently under democratic conditions.
Michael Duffy: Moving on, what might a libertarian society look like? How might it organise itself?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The basic idea is that if every institution, every person is subject to the same set of laws, then also the production of law and order has to be provided by freely financed institutions. There is no monopoly institution in this place. This would lead to a situation where we would indeed get some sort of contract of what will happen to us in certain situations of conflict, what the provider of security of law and order will do. They will have to describe what it is that they will protect, how will they protect it, what will they do in the case of a conflict between a client of a protecting agency and the agency itself, what will happen in the case that two security providers and their clients have conflicts with each other.
They will have to agree, for instance, that there will be independent arbitration in the case of conflicts between various protecting agencies, whereas if you compare that with the current situation, we have a situation where no contract exists between the citizens that are allegedly protected in their life and their property by the government, where it is not clear what will happen if the clients, the so-called clients of the state, are dissatisfied with the provisions that the state gives, where the clients have no possibility of appealing to independent third parties if it comes to a conflict between the state and the individual, where instead we have a situation where if you have a conflict with the state, some state agent, over property rights, it is another state agent who decides who is right and who is wrong in this case of conflict. And there you can predict of course what the outcome will be; they will by and large decide that they are always right.
Michael Duffy: Can I ask you for an example? In this sort of world you’re describing, say there was a law and everyone else agreed with it but I didn’t. So if, for example, I live in a street and I’ve got a one-hour parking sign out the front and I disagree with that but the other people in the street agree with it, what might happen then? I’m just trying to get a concrete idea of this.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The street would be privately owned. In a private law society there exists no such thing as public property, there exists only private property, and of course the owner of the private property lays down the rules that apply to this piece of private property. So conflicts like this would not even arise. Public property, on the other hand, generates conflicts. Allegedly we all own it. If we do not happen to agree, as if by magic, conflicts are almost unavoidable. If the unions want to demonstrate on the street and the car drivers want to drive on the street, both claim to be owners of this territory, and conflict is unavoidable. If everything is privately owned, it is perfectly clear whose rules apply and whose rules do not apply.
Michael Duffy: So if I own a house in a street, would that street belong to all the people in the neighbourhood or to another company? How would that work?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: That can be arranged in various ways. It might be owned by all the residents on the street, it might be owned by a third party and you have the right to access your property. Obviously nobody would buy any property if he did not have the right to access his own property, so you would have a contract with the person who owns the street. Or there are neighbourhood associations that jointly own the street and make joint decisions, as in stock companies or as in gated communities or institutions of that kind.
Michael Duffy: And if I didn’t agree with them I could leave basically, I could sell my house and…
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: And then you could leave.
Michael Duffy: In Australia we have a large number of people who are on welfare, poor people who are looked after by what we call the welfare state, possibly more than in America. What would happen to those people under the sorts of arrangements you’ve been describing?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: First of all I think that a large number of voluntary organisations would spring up, voluntary donations would dramatically increase given the fact that no taxes have to be paid. Currently the situation is such that you pay massive amounts of taxes and then people of course have the feeling why should I also support people who have this condition or that condition given that I am already paying an enormous sum of taxes.
Second, I think there would be greater pressure exerted on people not to become dependent on welfare because they are not entitled to it. They would have to behave in such a way that they satisfy their donors in some way, they have to be nice to their donors, whereas currently the situation is you feel entitled to these things and that breeds of course bad behaviour. Whatever you subsidise through taxes you will get more of it. If you support poor people, this does not eliminate poverty, it increases poverty, it increases the incentive to stay poor or to become poor. Whenever you subsidise people because they suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism, you increase of these forms of behaviour instead of discouraging them.
Michael Duffy: Do you think the welfare state can survive?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: No, the welfare state will ultimately collapse for the same reason that communism collapsed. All Western welfare states will not be able to repay their debts, will not be able to fulfil their obligations that they have assumed vis-à-vis people who are retiring. The only way that they can fulfil it is by engaging in a massive amount of inflation, that is printing up the money in order to give the impression that they might fulfil the obligation, with the consequence of course that the purchasing power of money drastically falls and an expropriation of productive individuals will take place.
Michael Duffy: I’d like to ask you a bit more about economics but unfortunately we don’t have a lot of time left. Just very generally, can you tell us a few of your most important thoughts about how you think the international financial system ought to be arranged differently?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The fundamental problem that we have which began in its most drastic form since 1971 is that all governments are nowadays on a pure paper money standard. All governments or their central banks can create money out of thin air. Increasing the amount of money in existence does not increase wealth in society, it is just additional pieces of paper. There is not one additional consumer good resulting from more money being printed, there is not one additional producer good resulting from more money being printed. If by money printing we could make societies richer, there would not be a single poor society. In fact, there would not be a single poor person on earth.
All that this money printing does is redistribute income and wealth from those people who print and get and spend the money first, and it impoverishes and expropriates who do get the newly printed money last, who are on fixed incomes and are confronted with rising prices resulting from the fact that additional money was being printed.
So the most important monetary reform that we can hope for would be the abolishment of all central banks and the return to a situation that existed for most of mankind, namely a situation where money is a regular commodity that must be produced in a costly way, such as gold and silver, by the market. Again, no monopoly in the production of money but competition in the production of money, and money being a regular commodity that cannot be generated out of thin air.
Michael Duffy: What about the role of intellectuals? We’ve never had anyone like yourself on our program before and that is disappointing. Why don’t more people think like you or it least engage in more diverse thinking about freedom?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The answer to that one is very easy. Most intellectuals are state employees, and of course they know where their money comes from. While that fact does not determine in the Marxist way how people think, it definitely helps to know where your money comes from. The demand for intellectual services on the market is far lower than the impression that intellectuals themselves tried to spread. Their salaries would probably be significantly less, there would be significantly less so-called intellectuals because they realise that their biggest helper is the state. They tend to be in favour of state institutions, tend to be in favour of having public education, public funding for research. Again, most research that is being done, especially in the social sciences, appears to me as a big waste of money. Societies would be richer if many of these so-called research projects had never been carried out at all.
Michael Duffy: Professor Hoppe, thanks very much for your time today.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Thank you very much.
Michael Duffy: Hans-Hermann Hoppe is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Nevada, and a distinguished fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
In coming weeks here on Counterpoint we’ll be talking to another prominent libertarian, David Hart. He’s an Australian historian, now resident in the US, a self-described ultra-sceptic who runs the important website, the Online Library of Liberty, and we’ll hear his views on freedom, war and the growth of the state.
With bitcoin gaining mainstream attention the coming attack on its users is inevitable. In this short piece I will explain how it is likely to unfold and how you can survive it.
First, a little background:
In 1996 E-gold was one of the early entrants to the market with a private, global e-currency. They achieved stellar growth and widespread attention – much like bitcoin today. Accolades came from freedom-lovers everywhere. They were the “Great Gold Hope” that would free the people by freeing the money. Privacy-enthusiasts, libertarians, gold-bugs, autarchists, anarchists, voluntaryists, drug-dealers, and even unsavory types flocked to it with praise and adoration.
Of course, the monopolists of the monetary system didn’t take lightly to this threat to their very existence. They came after the independent exchangers and e-gold with their full force and fury – eventually succeeding in convicting the key players for “conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business” and “conspiracy to engage in money laundering”. E-gold was fairly easy to take down because their operations and data-center were centralized and readily accessible.
Many folks who are now currently acting as currency exchangers for bitcoin will be the first to come under attack. Many will get hurt and possibly even imprisoned but, because of its decentralized nature, bitcoin will survive where e-gold did not.
If any of the large exchangers like mtgox.com are operating out of the US then it won’t be long before they are raided and shut down. Individual exchangers will be targeted as well – just to make an example and to scare others out of the community. This will create a giant “wet blanket” on the current enthusiasm for bitcoin and I expect the currency to take a major drop in exchange value when this happens. Not to fear though. Bitcoin will survive due to its decentralized “peer to peer” nature and it will continue to operate as an “alter-cash” resuming its growth albeit at a slower rate during the immediate aftermath.
To protect yourself I recommend the following:
You probably have a little more time before the attacks come (maybe a couple of months?) to acquire bitcoin with cash – and there are profits in speculation to be made until then but, when the raids come, expect a sharp correction before exchange values move on to new highs over a longer period of time. What you do not want to do is be involved as an “exchange service” conducting exchanges in and out of national currencies and you definitely do not want to have your money sitting in the exchanger’s account when they are raided and shut down.
Remember, e-gold was shut down for “conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business”. Do not store any money in online accounts like mybitcoin.com in case they get taken down along with the exchangers. Keep all of your bitcoins on your computer with multiple, encrypted back-ups both on the cloud and on an external thumb drive.
The safest way to acquire bitcoin is to let people know that you will accept it as payment for your products and services. Do not ever exchange it for national currencies. The point that people miss here is that national currencies are the very problem that freedom-lovers are trying to get away from. Instead, use bitcoin to trade with merchants and individuals who accept it as payment. Offer it as payment to those who are unaware of it and explain the benefits to them. This will help develop the market and create a solid economy outside of national currencies. After the initial attack, bitcoin will likely be one of the most powerful and revolutionary tools to bring about more freedom and liberty to humankind.
The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable
Adrian Chen — Making small talk with your pot dealer sucks. Buying cocaine can get you shot. What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Now you can: Welcome to Silk Road.
About three weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service delivered an ordinary envelope to Mark’s door. Inside was a tiny plastic bag containing 10 tabs of LSD. “If you had opened it, unless you were looking for it, you wouldn’t have even noticed,” Mark told us in a phone interview.
Mark, a software developer, had ordered the 100 micrograms of acid through a listing on the online marketplace Silk Road. He found a seller with lots of good feedback who seemed to know what they were talking about, added the acid to his digital shopping cart and hit “check out.” He entered his address and paid the seller 50 Bitcoins—untraceable digital currency—worth around $150. Four days later the drugs, sent from Canada, arrived at his house.”It kind of felt like I was in the future,” Mark said.
Silk Road, a digital black market that sits just below most internet users’ purview, does resemble something from a cyberpunk novel. Through a combination of anonymity technology and a sophisticated user-feedback system, Silk Road makes buying and selling illegal drugs as easy as buying used electronics—and seemingly as safe. It’s Amazon—if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals.
Here is just a small selection of the 340 items available for purchase on Silk Road by anyone, right now: a gram of Afghani hash; 1/8th ounce of “sour 13″ weed; 14 grams of ecstasy; .1 grams tar heroin. A listing for “Avatar” LSD includes a picture of blotter paper with big blue faces from the James Cameron movie on it. The sellers are located all over the world, a large portion from the U.S. and Canada.
But even Silk Road has limits: You won’t find any weapons-grade plutonium, for example. Its terms of service ban the sale of “anything who’s purpose is to harm or defraud, such as stolen credit cards, assassinations, and weapons of mass destruction.”
Getting to Silk Road is tricky. The URL seems made to be forgotten. But don’t point your browser there yet. It’s only accessible through the anonymizing network TOR, which requires a bit of technical skill to configure.
Once you’re there, it’s hard to believe that Silk Road isn’t simply a scam. Such brazenness is usually displayed only by those fake “online pharmacies” that dupe the dumb and flaccid. There’s no sly, Craigslist-style code names here. But while scammers do use the site, most of the listings are legit. Mark’s acid worked as advertised. “It was quite enjoyable, to be honest,” he said. We spoke to one Connecticut engineer who enjoyed sampling some “silver haze” pot purchased off Silk Road. “It was legit,” he said. “It was better than anything I’ve seen.”
Silk Road cuts down on scams with a reputation-based trading system familiar to anyone who’s used Amazon or eBay. The user Bloomingcolor appears to be an especially trusted vendor, specializing in psychedelics. One happy customer wrote on his profile: “Excellent quality. Packing, and communication. Arrived exactly as described.” They gave the transaction five points out of five.
“Our community is amazing,” Silk Road’s anonymous administrator, known on forums as “Silk Road,” told us in an email. “They are generally bright, honest and fair people, very understanding, and willing to cooperate with each other.”
Sellers feel comfortable openly trading hardcore drugs because the real identities of those involved in Silk Road transactions are utterly obscured. If the authorities wanted to ID Silk Road’s users with computer forensics, they’d have nowhere to look. TOR masks a user’s tracks on the site. The site urges sellers to “creatively disguise” their shipments and vacuum seal any drugs that could be detected through smell. As for transactions, Silk Road doesn’t accept credit cards, PayPal , or any other form of payment that can be traced or blocked. The only money good here is Bitcoins.
Bitcoins have been called a “crypto-currency,” the online equivalent of a brown paper bag of cash. Bitcoins are a peer-to-peer currency, not issued by banks or governments, but created and regulated by a network of other bitcoin holders’ computers. (The name “Bitcoin” is derived from the pioneering file-sharing technology Bittorrent.) They are purportedly untraceable and have been championed by cyberpunks, libertarians and anarchists who dream of a distributed digital economy outside the law, one where money flows across borders as free as bits.
To purchase something on Silk Road, you need first to buy some Bitcoins using a service like Mt. Gox Bitcoin Exchange. Then, create an account on Silk Road, deposit some bitcoins, and start buying drugs. One bitcoin is worth about $8.67, though the exchange rate fluctuates wildly every day. Right now you can buy an 1/8th of pot on Silk Road for 7.63 Bitcoins. That’s probably more than you would pay on the street, but most Silk Road users seem happy to pay a premium for convenience.
Since it launched this February, Silk Road has represented the most complete implementation of the Bitcoin vision. Many of its users come from Bitcoin’s utopian geek community and see Silk Road as more than just a place to buy drugs. Silk Road’s administrator cites the anarcho-libertarian philosophy of Agorism. “The state is the primary source of violence, oppression, theft and all forms of coercion,” Silk Road wrote to us. “Stop funding the state with your tax dollars and direct your productive energies into the black market.”
Mark, the LSD buyer, had similar views. “I’m a libertarian anarchist and I believe that anything that’s not violent should not be criminalized,” he said.
But not all Bitcoin enthusiasts embrace Silk Road. Some think the association with drugs will tarnish the young technology, or might draw the attention of federal authorities. “The real story with Silk Road is the quantity of people anxious to escape a centralized currency and trade,” a longtime bitcoin user named Maiya told us in a chat. “Some of us view Bitcoin as a real currency, not drug barter tokens.”
Silk Road and Bitcoins could herald a black market eCommerce revolution. But anonymity cuts both ways. How long until a DEA agent sets up a fake Silk Road account and starts sending SWAT teams instead of LSD to the addresses she gets? As Silk Road inevitably spills out of the bitcoin bubble, its drug-swapping utopians will meet a harsh reality no anonymizing network can blur.
Update: Jeff Garzik, a member of the Bitcoin core development team, says in an email that bitcoin is not as anonymous as the denizens of Silk Road would like to believe. He explains that because all Bitcoin transactions are recorded in a public log, though the identities of all the parties are anonymous, law enforcement could use sophisticated network analysis techniques to parse the transaction flow and track down individual Bitcoin users.
“Attempting major illicit transactions with bitcoin, given existing statistical analysis techniques deployed in the field by law enforcement, is pretty damned dumb,” he says.
Before my fellow friends of freedom “flame” me, let me first define my terms. I define “voting” as:
- the use of the political process by which individuals seek to force their will and opinions upon those who disagree with them.
I consider the political process of voting as nothing more than “mob rule”. It is akin to encountering a group of thugs in a dark alley who claim a right to your property because they outnumber you. Political voting is simply a contest for the control over the use of coercive power.
I, like the Voluntaryists, consider the political process to be illegitimate. Here is the Voluntaryist view from their website:
Statement of Purpose: Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society. We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends.
This is in alignment with the inescapable conclusions so eloquently presented by Lysander Spooner in No Treason VI: The Constitution of No Authority and Robert LeFevre’s A Way To Be Free – Epilogue. I consider both of these a “must read” for anyone who considers himself a supporter of life and liberty.
I will not vote via the political process.
Instead, I propose a different kind of voting. It is voting with your dollars through mutual, voluntary exchange. Pay, voluntarily, for those products and services which you value. Withhold your resources from those offering products and services which you do not. If products and services are forced upon you seek any peaceable means possible to avoid or evade the imposition. This is the essence of self-defense.
While Ron Paul is no doubt a friend of liberty, I do not agree with his chosen means by which to achieve his desired end. While his motives may be pure, it is inconsistent to utilize the coercive process of politics to bring about the end of coercion. His motive may simply be to use the political platform to publicize the ideas of liberty but it is a dangerous and misleading path. It gives legitimacy to the most destructive institution of all – coercive government. What is the alternative? Self Government.
The Wealthy Live Without Government
by Bill Walker
New Hampshire’s judicial branch recently announced an attempt to recapture business law from private arbitration. It’s quite hopeless; even the one judge assigned to the quixotic charge of this judicial Light Brigade admits that he doesn’t expect many businesses to use his court. And they won’t.
Why would anyone leave the relatively rational, honest, quick world of private arbitration for the endless delays and corruption of government courts? They wouldn’t. Even if they disagree with any one decision of a private arbitrator, at least the case will be OVER and they can get on with their business. That doesn’t happen once you sink into the tar pit of the US judicial system (ask my brother-in-law about his four-year divorce case…) As one of the NH Supreme Court judges said, “businesses don’t use state courts.”
But it goes further than that. Wealthy people and corporations don’t use state facilities of any kind when they can avoid them. The wealthy, including those in charge of inflicting government programs on the rest of us, use private services for themselves:
First and most important, the wealthy send their children to private schools. Even the Clintons and the Obamas sent their daughter(s) to private school, while talking loudly about the importance of keeping school vouchers away from working people. Many private schools may cost less than public schools, but they’re far better for the students in any measurable outcomes. And of course it’s easier to stay wealthy if you have a decent education.
The wealthy don’t get felt up by TSA or blasted with x-rays; they use private aircraft. Because of course private jets [or private suborbital rockets] could never be loaded with explosives and used to take down a skyscraper… errr, um….
The wealthy don’t depend on government police. They have bodyguards and private security for their homes. Private guards, of course, enforce private law… the wealthy don’t have to fear the Drug War unless they forget themselves and stray into “public” territory.
The wealthy may claim to be for gun control, but their guards are their weapons… and their guards are armed. Even when they go overseas in government service, the wealthy are protected by Xe (“the company formerly known as Blackwater”) or some other mercenary group.
The wealthy don’t depend on government health services. They don’t go on two-year waiting lists for treatments or transplant organs. They just fly to wherever the medical services are available. They don’t wait all night to beg a doctor to prescribe an antibiotic for their strep throat, either… they just have a private doctor get out of bed and get them some, or they fly to a country where the pharmacists are actually allowed to practice.
The wealthy don’t depend on government fiat money or bonds for their savings. They diversify into assets in different countries. Even their accounts are hidden in the Caymans or other havens. Inflation can only affect the small amounts they keep for everyday use; most of their money is in ownership of companies with real assets, or in hedge funds. And of course many have an emergency stock of gold.
Unless victim of temporary hormonal insanity (which of course does happen), the wealthy don’t end up in four-year divorce cases. They write their own contracts, pre-nups, specify private arbitration, etc.
The wealthy, obviously, don’t depend on Social Security, or unemployment, or the rest of the supposed “safety net.” And that makes them a lot safer.
So the wealthy live as anarcho-capitalists, even those dependent on corporate welfare or even holding official positions within a government. They get by without all the “vitally important government services,” even those of the central banks, courts, police, and armed forces. Perhaps this is why so many of the wealthy advocate more socialism; they don’t live under it.
Don’t Envy the Wealthy, Join Them
My point is not that we should all stand around consumed by envy and bloated by cheeseburgers like Michael Moore. It doesn’t hurt me if someone else has more money…in fact it helps me a whole lot. It’s really hard to sell products or services to poor people, and fundraising from them isn’t that productive either.
And while the wealthy live with more private services than we do, they only live in ersatz anarcho-capitalism. They may have private airplanes, but they can still only go as fast as our grandfathers did in 1960 in 707s. They may go to private doctors, but overall medical progress is still held up by the FDA, so they still get cancer. They may have private security against carjackers, but governments still have nuclear weapons, nerve gas, Ebola/flu, and billions of dollars’ worth of lethal pro-war propaganda.
However, joining the wealthy is a worthy goal (assuming we do it by producing a good or service and not by rent-seeking). Being wealthy may not guarantee you a life free of government interference, but it does mean that you’ll have the resources to make an impact on the world. Web publishing is cheap, but it’s hard to get people to listen to you if you’re poor… they assume that if you knew what you were doing, you’d be better off. You don’t have to spend money to have credibility, you just have to accumulate it.
You may say that “wealth is relative.” Not really. If you’re a millionaire, some billionaire may have a thousand times your wealth, but you can still afford private schools, private arbitrators, and private medical care. Once you escape dependence on government services, you are “wealthy” in an absolute sense.
Most of us can reach the level of productivity needed to escape most government “services.” It just requires that we live the economic lessons that we supposedly learned from all those free-market economics texts on our shelves. That means that we don’t become hermits and ignore the division of labor, comparative advantage, and the necessity to live by the sweat of our brows. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Ron: it’s time for you to give up lion taming and go back to chartered accountancy!)
Anyway, even the “socialists” nowadays have mastered the practical ways of capitalism and live in a relatively free-market world. It’s time more libertarians joined them.
May 12, 2011
Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
“The fatal attraction of government is that it allows busybodies to impose
decisions on others without paying any price themselves. That enables them to
act as if there were no price, even when there are ruinous prices — paid by
– Thomas Sowell
(1930- ) Writer and economist
By Harold (admin) on May 5, 2011
The grassroots efforts during the 2008 presidential campaign season spoke to the power of collective action toward a common goal. One of the most striking examples of this power was the success of “moneybombs” for Republican candidate Ron Paul. Rallying under the banner of the Paul campaign, thousands of people — most of whom had never met — donated money and worked together on a scale unprecedented in US electoral history.
In November 2007, these moneybombs helped Ron Paul raise more than $4.2 million in a single day. The very next month, Paul raised more in a single day than had ever been done previously; a total of more than $6 million, a record that still stands. Other grassroots campaigns also sprouted, each putting hundreds and thousands of hours and dollars toward the goal of raising money and awareness for Paul… and I was one of them. Motivated by Ron Paul’s presidential announcement, I launched my own grassroots effort to put up billboards in the early primary states.
The sum of all of these efforts became an important historical moment for grassroots political activism via the internet. It demonstrated what could be accomplished by “crowd-funding” projects using social media and other online platforms. The only problem was that it was all directed toward electoral politics; so all of that time, energy, and money was essentially wasted on trying to get “the right person” in office in order to make a change. A counter-argument is that even though Paul lost, his message was able to be spread throughout the country. The issue with that argument is that there are numerous individuals and groups already educating the public (and not just during election season) on a host of important viewpoints and issues; people whose efforts we could support to greater effect, given the same amount of time and money.
And who ends up with this money anyway? Large media conglomerates and corporate banks are often the final destination of funds; due to the fact that so much of it is spent on television advertising and other high-overhead, centralized methods — the (in)famous Ron Paul blimp, for instance. The term “moneybomb” seems pretty appropriate… considering that the money is essentially blown to bits by being used this way.
Now is the time to change the concept of moneybombing from something for politicians, to something for each other. We are increasingly living in a peer-to-peer world thanks to the internet; we need to utilize this technology to cut out the political middlemen, by working on solving issues for ourselves. Who is more fit to address the issues that affect us but us! Whether you have a great idea that needs funding, volunteers, or materials; or you want to contribute to others instead (or both!), we can achieve this without the bureaucracy and inefficiency of politics.
From The Fundamentals of Liberty (page 6) – by Robert LeFevre
There are also those who contend that objectivity is everything. They contend that the world is real and that everything that is, is. They are correct in their contention as to the existence of reality. But they are not correct when they contend that the uses of the mind are also objective. It is from this argument that the assumption grows that accurate knowledge is totally objective and that anything that is incorrect is subjective.
Thus, those who favor objectivism attempt to make it appear that the “rational” man is one who has objective knowledge and the “irrational” man has only an opinion which remains subjective. This is a very attractive way of looking at things for it can always be interpreted to mean that you are “right,” and that anyone who disagrees with you is “wrong” and hence “irrational”.
The weakness in this philosophy relates to the fact that no one ever really knows everything about anything. You only know those portions of reality that you have observed and correctly understand. Knowledge is an open circuit, not a closed one. You can always learn more. This will be more fully demonstrated later on. The process of education is a continuing one.
The philosophy offered here actually combines subjectivity and objectivity without denying the valid features of either. The real world is objective. It exists whether you are aware of it or not. The uses of the mind are subjective. They relate to the manner in which you observe and the way in which you think. Knowledge is the correct union of the two.
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe on the Impracticality of One-World Government and the Failure of Western-style Democracy
From The Daily Bell:
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe
The Daily Bell is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (left).
Introduction: Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, born in 1949 in Peine, West Germany, studied philosophy, sociology, economics, history and statistics at the University of the Saarland, in Saarbruecken, the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, in Frankfurt am Main, and at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. He received his doctorate (Philosophy, 1974, under Juergen Habermas) and his “Habilitation” degree (Foundations of Sociology and Economics, 1981) both from the Goethe University in Frankfurt.
In 1985 Hoppe moved to New York City to work with Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995), the most prominent American student of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973). In 1986 Hoppe followed Rothbard to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he served as Professor of Economics until his retirement in 2008. After Rothbard’s death, Hoppe also served for many years as editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics and of the interdisciplinary Journal for Libertarian Studies. Hoppe is a Distinguished Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, and founder and president of the Property and Freedom Society. He currently lives with his wife Dr. Guelcin Imre, a fellow economist, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Hoppe is the author of eight books – the best known of which is Democracy: The God That Failed – and more than 150 articles in books, scholarly journals and magazines of opinion. As an internationally prominent Austrian School economist and libertarian philosopher, he has lectured all over the world and his writings have been translated into more than twenty languages.
In 2006 Hoppe was awarded the Gary S. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty, and in 2009 he received the Franz Cuhel Memorial Prize from the University of Economics in Prague. At the occasion of his 60th birthday, in 2009, a Festschrift was published in his honor: Joerg Guido Huelsmann & Stephan Kinsella (eds.), “Property, Freedom and Society. Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe.” Hoppe’s personal website is http://www.HansHoppe.com. There the bulk of his scholarly and popular writings as well as many public lecture recordings are electronically available.
Daily Bell: Please answer these questions as our readers were not already aware of your fine work and considered opinions. Let’s jump right in. Why is democracy “The God that failed?”
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The traditional, pre-modern state-form is that of a (absolute) monarchy. The democratic movement was directed against kings and the classes of hereditary nobles. Monarchy was criticized as being incompatible with the basic principle of the “equality before the law.” It rested on privilege and was unfair and exploitative. Democracy was supposed to be the way out. In opening participation and entry into state-government to everyone on equal terms, so the advocates of democracy claimed, equality before the law would become reality and true freedom would reign. But this is all a big error.
True, under democracy everyone can become king, so to speak, not only a privileged circle of people. Thus, in a democracy no personal privileges exist. However, functional privileges and privileged functions exist. Public officials, if they act in an official capacity, are governed and protected by “public law” and thereby occupy a privileged position vis-à-vis persons acting under the mere authority of “private law.” In particular, public officials are permitted to finance or subsidize their own activities through taxes. That is, they are permitted to engage in, and live off, what in private dealings between private law subjects is prohibited and considered “theft” and “stolen loot.” Thus, privilege and legal discrimination – and the distinction between rulers and subjects – will not disappear under democracy.
Even worse: Under monarchy, the distinction between rulers and ruled is clear. I know, for instance, that I will never become king, and because of that I will tend to resist the king’s attempts to raise taxes. Under democracy, the distinction between rulers and ruled becomes blurred. The illusion can arise “that we all rule ourselves,” and the resistance against increased taxation is accordingly diminished. I might end up on the receiving end: as a tax-recipient rather than a tax-payer, and thus view taxation more favorably.
And moreover: As a hereditary monopolist, a king regards the territory and the people under his rule as his personal property and engages in the monopolistic exploitation of this “property.” Under democracy, monopoly and monopolistic exploitation do not disappear. Rather, what happens is this: instead of a king and a nobility who regard the country as their private property, a temporary and interchangeable caretaker is put in monopolistic charge of the country. The caretaker does not own the country, but as long as he is in office he is permitted to use it to his and his protégés’ advantage. He owns its current use – usufruct – but not its capital stock. This does not eliminate exploitation. To the contrary, it makes exploitation less calculating and carried out with little or no regard to the capital stock. Exploitation becomes shortsighted and capital consumption will be systematically promoted.
Daily Bell: If democracy has failed what would you put in its place? What is the ideal society? Anarcho-capitalism?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I prefer the term “private law society.” In a private law society every individual and institution is subject to one and the same set of laws. No public law granting privileges to specific persons or functions exists in this society. There is only private law (and private property), equally applicable to each and everyone. No one is permitted to acquire property by means other than through original appropriation of previously un-owned things, through production, or through voluntary exchange, and no one possesses a privilege to tax and expropriate. Moreover, no one is permitted to prohibit anyone else from using his property in order to enter any line of production he wishes and compete against whomever he pleases.
Daily Bell: How would law and order be provided in this society? How would your ideal justice system work?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: In a private law society the production of law and order – of security – would be undertaken by freely financed individuals and agencies competing for a voluntarily paying (or not-paying) clientele – just as the production of all other goods and services. How this system would work can be best understood in contrast to the workings of the present, all-too-familiar statist system. If one wanted to summarize in one word the decisive difference – and advantage – of a competitive security industry as compared to the current statist practice, it would be: contract.
The state operates in a legal vacuum. There exists no contract between the state and its citizens. It is not contractually fixed, what is actually owned by whom, and what, accordingly, is to be protected. It is not fixed, what service the state is to provide, what is to happen if the state fails in its duty, nor what the price is that the “customer” of such “service” must pay. Rather, the state unilaterally fixes the rules of the game and can change them, per legislation, during the game. Obviously, such behavior is inconceivable for freely financed security providers. Just imagine a security provider, whether police, insurer or arbitrator, whose offer consisted in something like this: I will not contractually guarantee you anything. I will not tell you what I oblige myself to do if, according to your opinion, I do not fulfill my service to you – but in any case, I reserve the right to unilaterally determine the price that you must pay me for such undefined service. Any such security provider would immediately disappear from the market due to a complete lack of customers.
Each private, freely financed security producer must instead offer its prospective clients a contract. And these contracts must, in order to appear acceptable to voluntarily paying consumers, contain clear property descriptions as well as clearly defined mutual services and obligations. Each party to a contract, for the duration or until the fulfillment of the contract, would be bound by its terms and conditions; and every change of terms or conditions would require the unanimous consent of all parties concerned.
Specifically, in order to appear acceptable to security buyers, these contracts must contain provisions about what will be done in the case of a conflict or dispute between the protector or insurer and his own protected or insured clients as well as in the case of a conflict between different protectors or insurers and their respective clients. And in this regard only one mutually agreeable solution exists: in these cases the conflicting parties contractually agree to arbitration by a mutually trusted but independent third party. And as for this third party: it, too, is freely financed and stands in competition with other arbitrators or arbitration agencies. Its clients, i.e., the insurers and the insured, expect of it, that it come up with a verdict that is recognized as fair and just by all sides. Only arbitrators capable of forming such judgments will succeed in the arbitration market. Arbitrators incapable of this and viewed as biased or partial will disappear from the market.
Daily Bell: Are you denying, then, that we need the state to defend us?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Indeed. The state does not defend us; rather, the state aggresses against us and it uses our confiscated property to defend itself. The standard definition of the state is this: the state is an agency characterized by two unique, logically connected features. First, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision-making. That is, the state is the ultimate arbiter and judge in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving itself and its agents. There is no appeal above and beyond the state. Second, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of taxation. That is, it is an agency that can unilaterally fix the price that its subjects must pay for the state’s service as ultimate judge. Based on this institutional set-up you can safely predict the consequences. First, instead of preventing and resolving conflict, a monopolist of ultimate decision-making will cause and provoke conflict in order to settle it to its own advantage. That is, the state does not recognize and protect existing law, but it perverts law through legislation. Contradiction number one: the state is a law-breaking law protector. Second, instead of defending and protecting anyone or anything, a monopolist of taxation will invariably strive to maximize his expenditures on protection and at the same time minimize the actual production of protection. The more money the state can spend and the less it must work for this money, the better off it is. Contradiction number two: the state is an expropriating property protector.
Daily Bell: Are there any good laws and regulations?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Yes. There are a few, simple good laws that almost everyone intuitively recognizes and acknowledges and that can also be demonstrated to be “true” and “good” laws. First: If there were no interpersonal conflicts and we all lived in perfect harmony there would be no need for any law or norm. It is the purpose of laws or norms to help avoid otherwise unavoidable conflict. Only laws that achieve this can be called good laws. A law that generates conflict rather than help avoid it is contrary to the purpose of laws, i.e., bad, dysfunctional or perverted law.
Second: Conflicts are possible only if and insofar as goods are scarce. People clash, because they want to use one and the same good in different, incompatible ways. Either I win and get my way or you win and get your way. We cannot both be “winners.” In the case of scarce goods, then, we need rules or laws helping us decide between rival, conflicting claims. In contrast, goods that are “free,” i.e., goods that exist in superabundance, that are inexhaustible or infinitely re-producible, are not and cannot be a source of conflict. Whenever I use a non-scarce good it does not in the slightest diminish the supply of this good available to you. I can do with it what I want and you can do with it what you want at the same time. There is no loser. We are both winners; and hence, as far as non-scarce goods are concerned, there is never any need for laws.
Third: All conflict concerning scarce goods, then, can be avoided if only every good is privately owned, i.e., exclusively controlled by one specified individual(s) rather than another, and it is always clear which thing is owned, and by whom, and which is not. And in order to avoid all possible conflict from the beginning of mankind on, it is only necessary to have a rule regulating the first, original appropriation of previously un-owned, nature-given goods as private property. In sum then, there are essentially three “good laws” that assure conflict-free interaction or “eternal peace:” a) he who first appropriates something previously on-owned is its exclusive owner (as the first appropriator he cannot have come into conflict with anyone else as everyone else appeared on the scene only later); b) he who produces something with his body and homesteaded goods is owner of his product, provided he does not thereby damage the physical integrity of others’ property; and c) he who acquires something from a previous or earlier owner by means of voluntary exchange, i.e., an exchange that is deemed mutually beneficial, is its owner.
Daily Bell: How, then, does one define freedom? As the absence of state coercion?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: A society is free, if every person is recognized as the exclusive owner of his own (scarce) physical body, if everyone is free to appropriate or “homestead” previously un-owned things as private property, if everyone is free to use his body and his homesteaded goods to produce whatever he wants to produce (without thereby damaging the physical integrity of other peoples’ property), and if everyone is free to contract with others regarding their respective properties in any way deemed mutually beneficial. Any interference with this constitutes an act of aggression, and a society is un-free to the extent of such aggressions.
Daily Bell: Where do you stand on copyright? Do you believe that intellectual property doesn’t exist as Kinsella has proposed?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I agree with my friend Kinsella, that the idea of intellectual property rights is not just wrong and confused but dangerous. And I have already touched upon why this is so. Ideas – recipes, formulas, statements, arguments, algorithms, theorems, melodies, patterns, rhythms, images, etc. – are certainly goods (insofar as they are good, not bad, recipes, etc.), but they are not scarce goods. Once thought and expressed, they are free, inexhaustible goods. I whistle a melody or write down a poem, you hear the melody or read the poem and reproduce or copy it. In doing so you have not taken anything away from me. I can whistle and write as before. In fact, the entire world can copy me and yet nothing is taken from me. (If I didn’t want anyone to copy my ideas I only have to keep them to myself and never express them.)
Now imagine I had been granted a property right in my melody or poem such that I could prohibit you from copying it or demanding a royalty from you if you do. First: Doesn’t that imply, absurdly, that I, in turn, must pay royalties to the person (or his heirs) who invented whistling and writing, and further on to those, who invented sound-making and language, and so on? Second: In preventing you from or making you pay for whistling my melody or reciting my poem, I am actually made a (partial) owner of you: of your physical body, your vocal chords, your paper, your pencil, etc. because you did not use anything but your own property when you copied me. If you can no longer copy me, then, this means that I, the intellectual property owner, have expropriated you and your “real” property. Which shows: intellectual property rights and real property rights are incompatible, and the promotion of intellectual property must be seen as a most dangerous attack on the idea of “real” property (in scarce goods).
Daily Bell: We have suggested that if people want to enforce generational copyright that they do so on their own, taking on the expense and attempting through various means to confront copyright violators with their own resources. This would put the onus of enforcement on the pocket book of the individual. Is this a viable solution – to let the market itself decide these issues?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: That would go a long way in the right direction. Better still: more and more courts in more and more countries, especially countries outside the orbit of the US dominated Western government cartel, would make it clear that they don’t hear cases of copyright and patent violations any longer and regard such complaints as a ruse of big Western government-connected firms, such as pharmaceutical companies, for instance, to enrich themselves at the expense of other people.
Daily Bell: What do you think of Ragnar Redbeard’s Might Is Right?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: You can give two very different interpretations to this statement. I see no difficulty with the first one. It is: I know the difference between “might” and “right” and, as a matter of empirical fact, might is in fact frequently right. Most if not all of “public law,” for instance, is might masquerading as right. The second interpretation is: I don’t know the difference between “might” and “right,” because there is no difference. Might is right and right is might. This interpretation is self-contradictory. Because if you wanted to defend this statement as a true statement in an argument with someone else you are in fact recognizing your opponent’s property right in his own body. You do not aggress against him in order to bring him to the correct insight. You allow him to come to the correct insight on his own. That is, you admit, at least implicitly, that you do know the difference between right and wrong. Otherwise there would be no purpose in arguing. The same, incidentally, is true for Hobbes’ famous dictum that one man is another man’s wolf. In claiming this statement to be true, you actually prove it to be false.
Daily Bell: It has been suggested that the only way to reorganize society is via a return to the clans and tribes that characterized homo-sapiens communities for tens of thousands of years? Is it possible that as part of this devolution, clan or tribal justice could be re-emphasized?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I don’t think that we, in the Western world, can go back to clans and tribes. The modern, democratic state has destroyed clans and tribes and their hierarchical structures, because they stood in the way of the state’s drive toward absolute power. With clans and tribes gone, we must try it with the model of a private law society that I have described. But wherever traditional, hierarchical clan and tribe structures still exist, they should be supported and attempts to “modernize” “archaic” justice systems along Western lines should be viewed with utmost suspicion.
Daily Bell: You have also written extensively on money and monetary affairs. Is a gold standard necessary for a free society?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: in a free society, the market would produce money, as all other goods and services. There would be no such thing as money in a world that was perfectly certain and predictable. But in a world with unpredictable contingencies people come to value goods also on account of their marketability or salability, i.e., as media of exchange. And since a more easily and widely salable good is preferable to a less easily and widely salable good as a medium of exchange, there is an inevitable tendency in the market for a single commodity to finally emerge that differs from all others in being the most easily and widely salable commodity of all. This commodity is called money. As the most easily salable good of all it provides its owner with the best humanly possible protection against uncertainty in that it can be employed for the instant satisfaction of the widest range of possible needs. Economic theory has nothing to say as to what commodity will acquire the status of money. Historically, it happened to be gold. But if the physical make-up of our world would have been different or is to become different from what it is now, some other commodity would have become or might become money. The market will decide. In any case, there is no need for government to get involved in any of this. The market has provided and will provide some money-commodity, and the production of that commodity, whatever it is, is subject to the same forces of supply and demand as the production of everything else.
Daily Bell: How about the free-banking paradigm? Is private fractional banking ever to be tolerated or is it a crime? Who is to put people in jail for private fractional banking?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Assume gold is money. In a free society you have free competition in gold-mining, you have free competition in gold-minting, and you have freely competing banks. The banks offer various financial services: of money safekeeping, clearing services, and the service of mediating between savers and borrower-investors. Each bank issues its own brand of “notes” or “certificates” documenting the various transactions and resulting contractual relations between bank and client. These bank-notes are freely tradable. So far so good. Controversial among free bankers is only the status of fractional reserve deposit banking and bank notes. Let’s say A deposits 10 ounces of gold with a bank and receives a note (a money substitute) redeemable at par on demand. Based on A’s deposit, then, the bank makes a loan to C of 9 ounces of gold and issues a note to this effect, again redeemable at par on demand.
Should this be permitted? I don’t think so. For there are now two people, A and C, who are the exclusive owner of one and the same quantity of money. A logical impossibility. Or put differently, there are only 10 ounces of gold, but A is given title to 10 ounces and C holds title to 9 ounces. That is, there are more property titles than there is property. Obviously this constitutes fraud, and in all areas except money, courts have also considered such a practice fraud and punished the offenders. On the other hand, there is no problem if the bank tells A that it will pay interest on his deposit, invest it, for instance, in a money market mutual fund made up of highly liquid short-term financial papers, and make its best efforts to redeem A’s shares in that investment fund on demand in a fixed quantity of money. Such shares may well be very popular and many people may put their money into them instead of into regular deposit accounts. But as shares of investment funds they would never function as money. They would never be the most easily and widely saleable commodity of all.
Daily Bell: Where do you stand on the current central banking paradigm? Is central banking as it is currently constituted the central disaster of our time?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Central banks are certainly one of the greatest mischief-makers of our time. They, and in particular the FED, have been responsible for destroying the gold standard, which has always been an obstacle to inflationary policies, and replacing it, since 1971, with a pure paper money standard (fiat money). Since then, central banks can create money virtually out of thin air. More paper money cannot make a society richer, of course, – it is just more printed-paper. Otherwise, why is it that there are still poor countries and poor people around? But more money makes its monopolistic producer (the central bank) and its earliest recipients (the government and big, government-connected banks and their major clients) richer at the expense of making the money’s late and latest receivers poorer.
Thanks to the central bank’s unlimited money printing power, governments can run ever higher budget deficits and pile up ever more debt to finance otherwise impossible wars, hot and cold, abroad and at home, and engage in an endless stream of otherwise unthinkable boondoggles and adventures. Thanks to the central bank, most “monetary experts” and “leading macro-economists” can, by putting them on the payroll, be turned into government propagandists “explaining,” like alchemists, how stones (paper) can be turned into bread (wealth). Thanks to the central bank, interest rates can be artificially lowered all the way down to zero, channeling credit into less and least credit-worthy projects and hands (and crowding out worthy projects and hands), and causing ever greater investment bubble-booms, followed by ever more spectacular busts. And thanks to the central bank, we are confronted with a dramatically increasing threat of an impending hyperinflation when the chicken finally come home to roost and the piper must be paid.
Daily Bell: We have often pointed out that the Seven Hills of Rome were initially independent societies just like the Italian city-states during the Renaissance and the 13 colonies of the US Republic. It seems great empires start as individual communities where people can leave one community if they are oppressed and go nearby to start afresh. What is the driving force behind this process of centralization? What are the building blocks of Empire?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: All states must begin small. That makes it easy for people to run away. Yet states are by nature aggressive, as I have already explained. They can externalize the cost of aggression onto others, i.e., hapless tax-payers. They don’t like to see productive people run away and try to capture them by expanding their territory. The more productive people the state controls, the better off it will be. In this expansionist desire, they run into opposition by other states. There can be only one monopolist of ultimate jurisdiction and taxation in any given territory. That is, the competition between different states is eliminative. Either A wins and controls a territory, or B. Who wins? At least in the long run, that state will win – and take over another’s territory or establish hegemony over it and force it to pay tribute – that can parasitically draw on the comparatively more productive economy. That is, other things being the same, internally more “liberal” states (in the classic European sense of “liberal”) will tend to win over less “liberal,” i.e., illiberal or oppressive states.
Looking only at modern history, we can so explain first the rise of liberal Great Britain to the rank of the foremost world Empire and then, subsequently, that of the liberal US. And we can understand a seeming paradox: why it is, that internally liberal imperial powers like the US tend to be more aggressive and belligerent in their foreign policy than internally oppressive powers, such as the former Soviet Union. The liberal US Empire was sure to win with its foreign wars and military adventures, while the oppressive Soviet Union was afraid that it might lose.
But Empire building also bears the seeds of its own destruction. The closer a state comes to the ultimate goal of world domination and one-world government, the less reason is there to maintain its internal liberalism and do instead what all states are inclined to do anyway, i.e., to crack down and increase their exploitation of whatever productive people are still left. Consequently, with no additional tributaries available and domestic productivity stagnating or falling, the Empire’s internal policies of bread and circuses can no longer be maintained. Economic crisis hits, and an impending economic meltdown will stimulate decentralizing tendencies, separatist and secessionist movements, and lead to the break-up of Empire. We have seen this happen with Great Britain, and we are seeing it now, with the US and its Empire apparently on its last leg.
There is also an important monetary side to this process. The dominant Empire typically provides the leading international reserve currency, first Britain with the pound sterling and then the US with the dollar. With the dollar used as reserve currency by foreign central banks, the US can run a permanent “deficit without tears.” That is, the US must not pay for its steady excesses of imports over exports, as it is normal between “equal” partners, in having to ship increasingly more exports abroad (exports paying for imports). Rather: Instead of using their export earnings to buy American goods for domestic consumption, foreign governments and their central banks, as a sign of their vassal status vis-à-vis a dominant US, use their paper dollar reserves to buy up US government bonds to help Americans to continue consuming beyond their means.
I do not know enough about China to understand why it is using its huge dollar reserves to buy up US government bonds. After all, China is not supposed to be a part of the US Empire. Maybe its rulers have read too many American economics textbooks and now believe in alchemy, too. But if only China would dump its US treasuries and accumulate gold reserves instead, that would be the end of the US Empire and the dollar as we know it.
Daily Bell: Is it possible that a shadow of impossibly wealthy families located in the City of London is partially responsible for all this? Do these families and their enablers seek world government by elites? Is it a conspiracy? Do you see the world in these terms: as a struggle between the centralizing impulses of elites and the more democratic impulses of the rest of society?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I’m not sure if conspiracy is still the right word, because in the meantime, thanks to people such as Carroll Quigley, for instance, much is known about what is going on. In any case, it is certainly true that there are such impossibly rich families, sitting in London, New York City, Tel Aviv and elsewhere, who have recognized the immense potential for personal enrichment in the process of State- and Empire-building. The heads of big banking houses played a key role in the founding of the FED, because they realized that central banking would allow their own banks to inflate and expand credit on top of money and credit created by the central bank, and that a “lender of last resort” was instrumental in allowing them to reap private profits as long as things would go well and to socialize costs if they wouldn’t.
They realized that the classical gold standard stood as a natural impediment to inflation and credit expansion, and so they helped set up first a phony gold standard (the gold exchange standard) and then, after 1971, a pure fiat money regime. They realized that a system of freely fluctuating national fiat currencies was still imperfect as far as inflationist desires are concerned, in that the supremacy of the dollar could be threatened by other, competing currencies such as a strong German Mark, for instance; and in order to reduce and weaken this competition they supported “monetary integration” schemes such as the creation of a European Central Bank (ECB) and the Euro.
And they realized that their ultimate dream of unlimited counterfeiting power would come true, if only they succeeded in creating a US dominated world central bank issuing a world paper currency such as the bancor or the phoenix; and so they helped set up and finance a multitude of organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, etc., that promote this goal. As well, leading industrialists recognized the tremendous profits to be made from state-granted monopolies, from state-subsidies, and from exclusive cost-plus contracts in freeing or shielding them from competition, and so they, too, have allied themselves to and “infiltrated” the state.
There are “accidents” in history, and there are carefully planned actions that bring about consequences which are unintended and unanticipated. But history is not just a sequence of accidents and surprises. Most of it is designed and intended. Not by common folks, of course, but by the power elites in control of the state apparatus. If one wants to prevent history from running its present, foreseeable course to unprecedented economic disaster, then, it is indeed imperative to arouse public indignation by exposing, relentlessly, the evil motives and machinations of these power elites, not just of those working within the state apparatus, but in particular also of those staying outside, behind the scenes and pulling the strings.
Daily Bell: It has been our contention that just as the Gutenberg press blew up existing social structures in its day, so the Internet is doing that today. We believe the Internet may be ushering in a new Renaissance after the Dark Age of the 20th century. Agree? Disagree?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: It is certainly true that both inventions revolutionized society and greatly improved our lives. It is difficult to imagine what it would be to go back to the pre-internet age or the pre-Gutenberg era. I am skeptical, however, if technological revolutions in and of themselves also bring about moral progress and an advance toward greater freedom. I am more inclined to think that technology and technological advances are “neutral” in this regard. The Internet can be used to unearth and spread the truth as much as to spread lies and confusion. It has given us unheard of possibilities to evade and undermine our enemy the state, but it has also given the state unheard of possibilities of spying on us and ruining us. We are richer today, with the Internet, than we were, let’s say, in 1900, without it (and we are richer not because of the state but in spite of it). But I would emphatically deny that we are freer today than we were in 1900. Quite to the contrary.
Daily Bell: Any final thoughts? Can you tell us what you are working on now? Any books or websites you would like to recommend?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I once deviated from my principle not to speak about my work until it was done. I have regretted this deviation. It was a mistake that I won’t repeat. As for books, I recommend above all reading the major works of my two masters, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, not just once, but repeatedly from time to time. Their work is still unsurpassed and will remain so for a long time to come. As for websites, I go most regularly to mises.org and to lewrockwell.com. As for other sites: I have been called an extremist, a reactionary, a revisionist, an elitist, a supremacist, a racist, a homophobe, an anti-Semite, a right-winger, a theocrat, a godless cynic, a fascist and, of course, a must for every German, a Nazi. So, it should be expected that I have a foible for politically “incorrect” sites that every “modern,” “decent,” “civilized,” “tolerant,” and “enlightened” man is supposed to ignore and avoid.
Daily Bell: Thank you for your time in answering these questions. It has been a special honor to address them to you in the context of your remarkable work.
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: You’re welcome.