Mises Daily Articles
How to Fight the Modern State
In this 1997 speech by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, now available as an ebook from the Mises Institute under the title What Must Be Done, Hoppe presents a plan of action for anarcho-capitalists against the modern state.
Hoppe begins by examining the nature of the state as “a monopolist of defense and the provision and enforcement of law and order.” Like all state-mandated monopolies, the monopoly of law enforcement also leads to higher prices and lower quality of services. Why is this state of affairs tolerated? The modern democratic states, much more than the monarchies and princely estates of old, are seen as moral and necessary despite ample evidence to the contrary.
In this initial analysis, we find much of what Hoppe eventually expanded into his 2001 book Democracy: The God that Failed, which systematically dismantled modern arguments in favor of the democratic state.
In the final portion of his speech, Hoppe turns to discussing how a modern partisan of liberty might act to counter the march of centralization and the destruction of property, culture, learning, and natural social hierarchies.
A Bottom-Up Revolution
At last to the detailed explanation of the meaning of this bottom-up revolutionary strategy. For this, let me turn to my earlier remarks about the defensive use of democracy, that is, the use of democratic means for nondemocratic, libertarian pro-private property ends. Two preliminary insights I have already reached here.
First, from the impossibility of a top-down strategy, it follows that one should expend little or no energy, time, and money on nationwide political contests, such as presidential elections. And also not on contests for central government, in particular, less effort on senatorial races than on house races, for instance.
Second, from the insight into the role of intellectuals, in the preservation of the current system, the current protection racket, it follows that one should likewise expend little or no energy, time, or money trying to reform education and academia from the inside. By endowing free enterprise or private property chairs within the established university system, for instance, one only helps to lend legitimacy to the very idea that one wishes to oppose. The official education and research institutions must be systematically defunded and dried up. And to do so all support of intellectual work, as an essential task of this overall task in front of us, should of course be given to institutions and centers determined to do precisely this.
The reasons for both of these pieces of advice are straightforward: Neither the population as a whole nor all educators and intellectuals in particular are ideologically completely homogeneous. And even if it is impossible to win a majority for a decidedly antidemocratic platform on a nationwide scale, there appears to be no insurmountable difficulty in winning such a majority in sufficiently small districts, and for local or regional functions within the overall democratic government structure. In fact, there seems to be nothing unrealistic in assuming that such majorities exist at thousands of locations. That is, locations dispersed all over the country but not evenly dispersed …
But what then? Everything else falls almost automatically from the ultimate goal, which must be kept permanently in mind, in all of one’s activities: the restoration from the bottom-up of private property and the right to property protection; the right to self-defense, to exclude or include, and to freedom of contract. And the answer can be broken down into two parts.
First, what to do within these very small districts, where a pro-private property candidate and anti-majoritarian personality can win. And second, how to deal with the higher levels of government, and especially with the central federal government. First, as an initial step, and I’m referring now to what should be done on the local level, the first central plank of one’s platform should be: one must attempt to restrict the right to vote on local taxes, in particular on property taxes and regulations, to property and real estate owners. Only property owners must be permitted to vote, and their vote is not equal, but in accordance with the value of the equity owned, and the amount of taxes paid.
Further, all public employees — teachers, judges, policemen — and all welfare recipients, must be excluded from voting on local taxes and local regulation matters. These people are being paid out of taxes and should have no say whatsoever how high these taxes are. With this platform one cannot of course win everywhere; you cannot win in Washington, D.C. with a platform like this. But I dare say that in many locations this can be easily done. The locations have to be small enough and have to have a good number of decent people.
Consequently, local taxes and rates as well as local tax revenue will inevitably decrease. Property values and most local incomes would increase whereas the number and payment of public employees would fall. Now, and this is the most decisive step, the following thing must be done, and always keep in mind that I am talking about very small territorial districts, villages.
In this government funding crisis which breaks out once the right to vote has been taken away from the mob, as a way out of this crisis, all local government assets must be privatized. An inventory of all public buildings, and on the local level that is not that much — schools, fire, police station, courthouses, roads, and so forth — and then property shares or stock should be distributed to the local private property owners in accordance with the total lifetime amount of taxes — property taxes —that these people have paid. After all, it is theirs, they paid for these things …
Without local enforcement, by compliant local authorities, the will of the central government is not much more than hot air. Yet this local support and cooperation is precisely what needs to be missing. To be sure, so long as the number of liberated communities is still small, matters seem to be somewhat dangerous. However, even during this initial phase in the liberation struggle, one can be quite confident.
It would appear to be prudent during this phase to avoid a direct confrontation with the central government and not openly denounce its authority or even abjure the realm. Rather, it seems advisable to engage in a policy of passive resistance and noncooperation. One simply stops to help in the enforcement in each and every federal law. One assumes the following attitude: "Such are your rules, and you enforce them. I cannot hinder you, but I will not help you either, as my only obligation is to my local constituents …”