Our National Psychosis
Hey, what a week for our sacred democracy. Wow! You know, it’s so sacred that just a few thousand votes in a few states here and there could have turned it from sacred into profane, couldn’t it? Real easy. But no, as long as it goes a certain way, it shows the wisdom of the crowd.
We’re generally told that there are three particular benefits to democracy and one of those benefits is a peaceful transfer of political power. So, that’s increasingly being questioned, but Mises wrote about this way back in the 1920s. He said this is why we need democracy. He wrote about it again in the 1940s in Human Action. He said this allows us to change from one government to another without violence. That’s largely been true in the twentieth century, and in the seventy-odd years since he wrote that, that’s largely been true.
But two of the other reasons that we’re told to revere democracy, I think, are not true, and one of them is that it creates a compromise, some sort of down-the-middle policy, so that the Far Left doesn’t get everything it wants, the Far Right doesn’t get everything it wants, but somewhere down the middle there’s a happy compromise, we all get a little bit of what we want. And of course we see that’s not true at all. The whole country’s at each other’s throats, and what we really have is a sort of bureaucratic and oligarchic overclass and just a bunch of average, regular people like us who are unhappy with the results of democracy, so I don’t see any great compromises coming from it. And then, of course, probably the worst excuse for democracy is that it represents some sort of consent of the governed. So, in a country of 330 million people that becomes entirely meaningless, and I think we all get that.
So, I hope many of you I don’t know have read Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed—came out in 2001. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I wish you would. Unfortunately, we don’t own the rights to that book, or there’d be a $6 paperback of it, but nonetheless, well worth purchasing, well worth reading. There’s a PDF online which may or may not be pirated. Not by us; that’s the market, baby. So, if you have a chance to look at that book, every chapter reads very well as a standalone chapter. I encourage it. There’s a great chapter in there disabusing you of conservatism and all these other things. But the introduction to that book is all about what Hoppe sees as the turning point of World War I, when we went from what we might call the Old Right, which was a real liberalism rooted in property and self-determination, into mass democracy.
And so World War I, Hoppe says, is what changed everything, and it’s where we decided that all the benefits of Enlightenment rationalism and the Industrial Revolution would start to fray because we would turn them over into democracy. And one thing he points out is that prior to Woodrow Wilson—you remember a year ago we were talking about Edward Bernays, who was Woodrow Wilson’s propagandist who came up with the phrase “Make the world safe for democracy”—prior to Wilson’s war and World War I, most wars were actually territorial. They were about turf. And so World War I, Hoppe tells us, was the first truly ideological war in human history, and that’s the result of mass democracy and wanting to impose democracy on other countries, our way of life on other people. So, not coincidentally, Hoppe points out, there were actually far more civilian casualties from starvation and disease than soldier casualties on battlefields in World War I. I wonder how many people know that. And he says, This is not a surprise; this is what happens when you have total wars as opposed to regional or territorial wars. So, also because of ideology, the ideology of democracy, there couldn’t be any compromise with the Germans. There could only be total surrender, humiliation, punishment, reparations, and we all know what came a few decades later.
So, Hoppe’s book is about the results of mass democracy; it’s all about results. So, we think of the marketplace as producing goods and services. Governments produce bads, Hoppe says. They produce bad things; they take from us and they make things worse. So, what do we get from democracy in terms of results? Well we get bad politicians, we get bad voters with high time preferences, we get bad policy, we get war, taxes, regulations, surveillance, cultural degradation—the whole nine yards. But the other thing we get in terms of bads which the state produces in a democratic system is this centralization of state power. Hoppe describes we had thousands upon thousands of city-stat
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