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God Save the Duke and Duchess!

April 29, 2011

There is a remarkable outpouring of enthusiasm and affection occurring right now in London’s Trafalgar Square over the wedding of Prince William and the beautiful Kate Middleton. As I am writing, the couple has just stepped out from Westminster Abbey onto a balcony to wave to the crowd and smooch it up.

On the BBC, there was even an old gent interviewed who described himself as an “unabashed royalist” and who led a small crowd in pitchy rendition of God Save the Queen.

Also remarkable was one of those rare moments when the opinion of the royal family made a small stirring in the world of politics. The current Tory Prime Minister David Cameron was invited to the nuptials, but the two recent Labor Prime Ministers (warmonger Tony Blair and the bureaucracy-loving Gordon Brown) were not.

All this makes me wonder, why not use this nostalgia and popular acclaim as momentum to transfer some real power back to the House of Windsor, and maybe even the House of Lords too?

Anyone who thinks such an idea is self-evident folly should read Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

The defining characteristic of private government ownership is that the expropriated resources and the monopoly privilege of future expropriation are individually owned. The appropriated resources are added to the ruler’s private estate and treated as if they were a part of it, and the monopoly privilege of future expropriation is attached as a title to this estate and leads to an instant increase in its present value (“capitalization” of monopoly profit).

Most importantly, as private owner of the government estate, the ruler is entitled to pass his possessions onto his personal heir; he may sell, rent, or give away part or all of his privileged estate and privately pocket the receipts from the sale or rental; and he may personally employ or dismiss every administrator and employee of his estate.

In contrast, in a publicly owned government the control over the government apparatus lies in the hands of a trustee, or caretaker. The caretaker may use the apparatus to his personal advantage, but he does not own it. He cannot sell government resources and privately pocket the receipts, nor can he pass government possessions onto his personal heir. He owns the current use of government resources, but not their capital value.

Moreover, while entrance into the position of a private owner of government is restricted by the owner’s personal discretion, entrance into the position of a caretaker-ruler is open. Anyone, in principle, can become the government’s caretaker.

From these assumptions two central, interrelated predictions can be deduced:

  1. A private government owner will tend to have a systematically longer planning horizon, i.e., his degree of time preference will be lower, and accordingly, his degree of economic exploitation will tend to be less than that of a government caretaker; and
  2. subject to a higher degree of exploitation, the nongovernmental public will also be comparatively more present oriented under a system of publicly owned government than under a regime of private government ownership.

EDIT: I forgot that this doesn’t go without saying for everybody, so I’d better say it. Hoppe says that given the existence of the state, monarchy is preferable to democracy. But for Hoppe, the ideal state of affairs is neither of those two, and instead what he calls “natural order” (anarcho-capitalism).

Myself I am not completely sold on Hoppe’s argument. I am currently leaning toward David Hume’s preference for a true separation of powers (not the phony separation of powers we have in the Colonies) provided by the rivalry between Monarch and Commons. It was under a monarchy weakened by the Commons (following the Glorious Revolution) that Great Britain enjoyed its most liberal policies. But it was after the House of Commons became all-powerful in the late 19th century that Great Britain became a welfare-warfare state.

God save the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

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