"Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it." -John Adams


Welcome to Patriot's Lament. We will strive here to educate ourselves on Liberty. We will not worry ourselves so much with the daily antics of American politics, and drown ourselves in the murky waters of the political right or left.
Instead, we will look to the Founding Fathers of our great Nation, and draw on their wisdom of what it is to have a truly free Republic. We will learn from where our Providential Liberties are derived, and put the proper perspective of a Freeman and the state.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Failure of Democracy

I've been working on piecing together some posts on institutional failures. These are not failures of particular individuals, but instead inherent structural failures of the institutions that are supposed to deliver us from the realities of life. Last week I posted on the failure of any war in the 20th century to "secure freedom" and the empirical fact that the nations that participated in the 20th century wars were less free after each war (this is true of "both" sides in each of these wars).

Today, we will explore democracy. Instead of looking at it from a moral standpoint by discussing the legitimacy of mob rule, I'd like to discuss it in a value free way. In other words, regardless of what you think about individual rights vs group rights (if they can even exist), let's simply ask the question: has it worked? Does the institution of democracy allow people to be more free or more prosperous relative to the alternatives?

In the video below, Hans Hoppe outlines the logical line of thought that answers this question with a resounding "no." He also notes that historians simply look at empirical data points and assume correlation is causation. 20th century rich, 19th century poor. 20th century democracy, 19th century monarchy. Monarchy bad. Democracy good. But of course, if we are intellectually honest we have to admit that correlation is not causation, we have to admit that by every economic metric taxation was lower in the 19th century than the 20th century, we have to admit that freedom of mobility was significantly greater in the 19th century (tho the means of travel were not as convenient), we have to admit that war was waged on a profoundly lesser scale in the 19th century ... continental Europe's first "peaceful century" since its emergence after the decline of Rome. And on and on and on.

Hoppe provides more insights here:


But, you might say, the American colonies were better off without the King! We waged a war for freedom (???) and this is why America was so prosperous! Could it be that America was prosperous only to the extent that colonists could head west into the "anarchy" of the wilderness and escape the new American State? Could it be that this is why this prosperity has been in decline since the last frontiers became absorbed by the Kingless tyranny of American Democracy (which retained all of the power of the king, but simply placed it in the hands of temporary caretakers)?

If you are interested in challenging the mythology of the American Revolution "freeing the colonies" read on here: Tricked on the Fourth of July, by Gary North

What about when Jesus, er, Ronald Reagan was President? Republicans praise him for his tax cuts (and ignore the fact that he raised the debt ceiling 18 times in 8 years). Democrats deride him for his tax cuts (and ignore the fact that he saved all their favorite social programs by raising the debt ceiling 18 times in 8 years). Harry Browne on the other hand was literate. Using this dangerous skill of reading and combining it with some simple analytics and critical thinking, he found that under Reagan, the national tax burden increased by 65%.
Reagan is known as a tax-cutter, and the term "Reaganomics" implies dramatic cuts in tax rates. But after pushing through a tax cut to be implemented over three years, he cooperated during the second year in the largest tax increase in American history up to that time. The nation's annual tax load increased by 65% during his time in office.

See also: Gary North's analysis of Reagan

So this would mean that Republican praise and Democrat derision are both misplaced. But I think paying attention to the man is a waste of time and energy. How about the institution itself? What if there are fundamental structural problems with the state itself and specifically the democratic state? If these problems are structural and/or institutional, what does this say about the ability to change outcomes simply by putting the "right people" in office?

Think about it. I will offer some of my thoughts on that tomorrow.

3 comments:

  1. Of course I agree with your take on democracy: Epic failure. Evil actually.
    As far as the Revolution, we fail ourselves if we try to read into it or understand it as a 20th century man, and not as a 18th century man. Jefferson being the lier of the century? Perhaps Gary North never read that fine book,"Conceived in Liberty", which I would suggest to everyone. Of course taxes were lower then than they are now, government is itself a terrible master, and never stops growing. Is England better off now than they were in 1780? Of course not. Government digresses until it fails.
    To look at our Revolution strictly under the tax burden fails to understand our Revolution. While the government that was instituted ended up with a larger tax burden than the King instituted, the colonist still had in their mind that the tax burden was too much! They wanted Independence from a Kingdom that was ruling from across the seas. Jefferson pointed out much more than the tax burden, his writing of the many grievances of the King were quite legitimate, look at what Parliament was doing to New York. Taxation without representation. Forcing colonist to house and feed the King's troops. Put yourself in a colonist's shoes in 1770, and not 2011, and you would more than likely have joined the Revolution. Again, the Revolution was conceived in Liberty. The new world made man think of Liberty in ways never thought of before by a common man.
    In the 1600's, Virginians revolted against the lord's of the colony when they raised their property taxes on land the colonist didn't even own, from 6 pence a 100 acres to 1 penny and acre. Would we mock them because now we pay $5000 a year for 5 acres for land THAT WE OWN? Who should we mock? PSHAW the colonist because they had it made compared to us? Jefferson lied because things weren't as bad as they are now? Or should we mock ourselves, for being complacent and allowing ourselves to have over 50% of our wealth to be stolen from us every year?
    I look for the men of today that would dare bear arms against their "King" over a mere 1% tax. Government is what government is, Theft. But History has shown us there is an remedy, but no one will do it for us.

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  2. Good points as to the origins and motivations for the revolution. It would not have been successful as to its goal of removing the King's hand from the colonies without legitimate and widely felt grievances, as well as people willing to resist. The unfortunate part is that in the end, despite the average colonists desire to be free, they traded very light taxation without representation for comparatively heavy taxation with representation. The powers that the King claimed were not dissolved. For the most part they just fell into the hands of elected caretakers.

    Taxes were lower in the colonies in 1775 under King George than they were in 1787 with the ratification of the Constitution. It's not necessary to compare 2011 to 1775. Just directly before/after the war is sufficient. In fact even after the war debt was paid off taxes were never lower in the colonies after 1775 than before.

    Another thing to consider: Canada and Australia are no longer colonies under the rule of the King. They did not wage war to gain independence.

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  3. It would be worth mentioning that with the King out of the way, people began moving westward en-masse in search of greater opportunity (something disallowed by England). These people were not subject to the northeastern "elected king's" tax structure or laws by and large. They could be almost as rebellious as the colonists were under the king without having to worry about "treason" as those who remained back east did.

    Prior to the revolution merchant ships going to battle against the Royal Navy (which was seeking to collect tariffs) was an act supported and cheered on by many colonists (especially in the Carolinas). There are HMS wrecks from pre-colonial times on the east coast that are still a source of pride for some.

    After the war, Hamilton created the Coast Guard as an enforcement arm of the Treasury to do exactly the same thing that the Royal Navy was doing. Now however, resistance wasn't viewed as defensive, but as treasonous.

    Also interesting that the part of the military often believed to be most legitimate in its perceived goal of strictly providing defense was created as an enforcement tool for tax collection.

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