Chapter 13 On the Impossibility of Limited Government and the Prospect for Revolution

What are the sources of pride of American citizens?

Part I

The first source of pride is the memory of Americans that they were a country of pioneers. They were the last people to have the opportunity to "create a free and prosperous commonwealth" from scratch. These settlers demonstrated, in accordance with John Locke, how "private property originated naturally through a person's original appropriation-his purposeful use and transformation-of previously unused land (wilderness). They further demonstrated that they were capable of protecting property interests and of recognizing institutions and associations.

Part II

The second source of pride is the American Revolution.

The settlers who came to America came from a system with an absolute hereditary monarchy, but that rule had for centuries been opposed by the aristocracy "with recourse to the theory of natural rights....According to this doctrine, government was supposed to be contractual, and every government agent...was subject to the same universal rights and laws as everyone else." Under the influence of this philosophy, American colonists revolted against British rule and instituted a new government.

Part III

The third source of national pride is the U.S. Constitution.

It is the American Constitution that is the fateful error in the history of the U.S. "Having successfully seceded and thrown off the British occupiers, it would only have been necessary for all American colonists to let the existing homegrown institutions of self-defense and private (voluntary and cooperative) protection and adjudication by specialized agents and agencies take care of law and order."

This is, of course, not what happened. The American colonists reconstituted the government by creating states with political boundaries and granting such states the monopoly power to tax and to make laws. To compound that error, they entered into the American Constitution creating a central government and explicitly granting it the right to tax! Further, the Constitution granted legislative powers to this government. Such powers had never been explicitly granted a king who was deemed to only be the interpreter of natural law.

"[T]he Constitution put temporary and interchangeable caretakers in charge of the country's monopoly of justice and protection." As demonstrated earlier (see e.g. Chapter 3) this assured that the caretaker would be "shortsighted and wasteful." As a consequence of the open nature of government, "the entire character structure of society became distorted, and more and more bad characters rose to the top."

Even those people who do not seek to enrich themselves at the expense of others will be profoundly affected by a system that encourages expropriation of property and legislation. They will need to spend more and more time protecting themselves from the depredations of the government agents.  They will need to cultivate skills of charm, charisma and sociability, as opposed to skills of industry, honor and diligence. So, the whole character of the people will become distorted. Even within civil society (not just government), "individuals will increasingly rise to the top of economic and financial success not on account of their productive or entrepreneurial talents or even their superior defensive political talents, but rather because of their superior skills as unscrupulous political entrepreneurs and lobbyists."

Here Hoppe inserts a long footnote quoting John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government, on the futility of a government of limited powers: "'[I]t is a great mistake [of those proposing a written constitution] to suppose that the mere insertion of provisions to restrict and limit the powers of he government, without investing those for whose protection they are inserted with the means of enforcing their observance, will be sufficient to prevent the major and dominant party from abusing its powers.'" The "'party'" to whom Calhoun is referring is the government, which is theoretically a party to the contract created by the Constitution. Calhoun continues, "'of what possible avail could the strict construction of the minor party [the states/the people] be, against the liberal interpretation of the major, when the one would have all the powers of the government to carry out its construction and the other would be deprived of all means of enforcing its construction?" 

Part IV

The results of a "'constitutionally limited government" in the U.S. are incontrovertible: 40% tax rates, extensive regulation over every aspect of people's lives, vanish private property rights, rising inflation, militarism, a standing army.

What is the proper action in such a circumstance? To recognize the U.S. Constitution as fundamentally flawed, a mistake. It is absurb to think that by "granting a government the power to tax and legislate without consent, the Constitution...[could preserve] the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Since the U.S. Constitution is incompatible with the theory of natural rights, it must be repudiated. No one in his right mind would enter into an irrevocable contract with another party who had the unilateral right to increase the cost of the goods provided and to change the rules by which the contract was interpreted. The U.S. Constitution must be repudiated as a fatal error.

it is also necessary to propose an alternative. This alternative is the "provision of law and order by freely competing private (profit and loss) insurance agencies." (See, Chapter 12). In addition to the incentives outlined in Chapter 12 to increase protection and decrease crime, insurers (as opposed to government agents) "must accept private property as an ultimate 'given' and private property rights as immutable....Moreover, out of the steady cooperation between different insurers in mutual interagency arbitration proceedings a tendency toward the unification of law--of a truly universal or 'international' law--will emerge...[which would] minimize conflict and aggression...."

Further implications would include:

the end of an attempt to monopolize the provision of private security.  No insurer would require his client to abandon his attempts to defend his property, in contrast to the government's attempt to confiscate the individual's arms and render him more fully dependent upon the government services;

the end of defining successful people as aggressors who must be punished. Punishment of aggression is the basis of policies of redistribution;

that some risks (business failure, disliking one's neighbors) are un-insurable, i.e. what is one's personal responsibility would be clarified;

that aggressors would find it difficult or impossible to obtain insurance and would thereby be "economically isolated, weak, and vulnerable outcast[s]."

Part V

But how to begin, given the state of the world?

In the same manner, the Founding Fathers began, "through the creation of free territories and by means of secession." But this bottom up strategy seems impossible given that the "masses are always dull and indolent ...[and more so now than ever given] that democracy...promotes moral and intellectual degeneration."  Could such a movement avoid being crushed by the state?

Hoppe first reminds us that the U.S. government was founded by a small minority of dedicated individuals. 

Secondly, we must remember that all governments rely upon the opinion that they are legitimate, i.e. every government can "be brought down by a change in opinion." Given that all Western governments are headed towards bankruptcy due to the on-going expenditures of the welfare/warfare state, it is not unrealistic to expect political disintegration.

In order to avoid a massive retaliation by the Federal government, seceding areas should avoid being contiguous states or regions. Instead, there could be a series of smaller territories and communities creating a network of free cities and towns across the U.S. This would make it "exceedingly difficult for the central state to create a unified opposition in public opinion to the secessionists."

Should we accomplish this end, we "can truly be proud again and ...American [will] be justified in claiming to provide an example to the rest of the world."







(Please login/register to leave a comment)