Monday, October 25, 2010

From Old Hop to Hans Hoppe and Back Again

If John Taylor of Caroline had had his way America would have been busted up into hundreds if not thousands of little autonomous communities that traded freely and shared militia for the common defense, but would have remained otherwise self-governed. This vision approaches Hans-Herman Hoppe’s ideal of “natural orders,” i.e., privately-run communities with their own rules.

In his book Democracy – The God that Failed Hoppe argues for natural orders, but along the way makes a compelling case that monarchy is a lesser evil than democracy. Using the principle of time preference, he reasons that a king – as the absolute “owner” of a country – has a lower time preference than democratically-elected officials, who amount to temporary caretakers. The king has a greater incentive to preserve the capital well-being of his country since it passes to his heirs. Democratic rulers have an incentive to expropriate as much wealth from their country as possible since they pass it to no one. Equally perverse, democracy devolves into mob rule when officials pander to constituents aspiring to benefit from the state’s redistributive powers. These clients are typically located at opposite ends of the spectrum – the weakest and the wealthiest. The productive classes are crushed until the state collapses upon itself – an end that has befallen many democratic societies in history (including socialist states), giving empirical warrant to Hoppe’s theory. To his credit, Taylor of Caroline foresaw this parasitic fate awaiting the United States over a hundred and fifty years before Hoppe wrote.

Perhaps the best empirical example of Hoppe’s monarchy-superior-to-democracy argument is the case of Liechtenstein. Granted, the little principality has all of 35,000 inhabitants; but if nothing else it demonstrates some of the political virtue of the old, free city-state concept that flourished in the early Renaissance period. Prince Hans-Adam II demanded, on threat of resigning his rule, that each district within the principality be granted the right to secede. In turn, his subjects voted to give him sweeping monarchical powers. The “overseers” caught in the middle of this symbiotic relationship are the 25 members of the Liechtenstein parliament. To wit, those that would ordinarily have expropriative power have been largely defanged by the prince and his subjects.

In a similar way, Old Hop of Chota “ruled” over the mid-18th century Cherokees. Politically, Cherokee society was as “bottom up” as they come. No individual could be coerced into doing anything against his will. Each town council consisted of everyone who cared to participate (“direct democracy”); decisions could not be reached without complete consensus (no simple majorities). Town elders – literally the old guys, along with a prominent older woman – represented the town at larger tribal councils. But the uku (“fire-keeper”) was there to personify tradition and give advice. People bowed to his recommendations out of respect for his age, wisdom, and tribal tradition; but ultimately any individual or town could choose to go against his counsel – as was disastrously the case when Great Tellico ignored Old Hop and launched an ill-fated attack on the British.

Economics and diplomacy aside, the Cherokee example is proto-typical of Taylor’s insight and Hoppe’s analysis. In the end I suppose my political philosophy has settled upon “anarcho-monarchism” – not in the silly sense of Salvador Dali, but in accord with the measured sensibilities of J.R.R. Tolkien. Ultimately, we are under One King (Philippians 2:9-11), and that ought to give faithful people pause from giving unqualified allegiance to the modern (mob rule) messianic state.

No comments: