Mises Wire

Put Your Hope In Radical Decentralization

[An interview with Hans-Herman Hoppe in the Polish weekly Najwyższy Czas!]

What is your assessment of contemporary Western Europe, and in particular the EU?

All major political parties in Western Europe, regardless of their different names and party programs, are nowadays committed to the same fundamental idea of democratic socialism. They use democratic elections to legitimize the taxing of productive people for the benefit of unproductive people. They tax people, who have earned their income and accumulated their wealth by producing goods or services purchased voluntarily by consumers (and of course especially the “rich” among those), and they then re-distribute the confiscated loot to themselves, i.e., the democratic State that they control or hope to control, and their various political friends, supporters, and potential voters.

They do not call this policy by its right name: punishing the productive and rewarding the unproductive, of course. That doesn’t sound particularly attractive. Instead, they tap into the always popular sentiment of envy and claim to tax the few “rich” to support the many “poor.” In truth, however, with their policy they make more and more productive people poor and a steadily increasing number of unproductive people rich.

But what about the EU?

Looking at the EU, the picture becomes even worse. The EU is the first step on the way toward the creation of a European Super-State, and ultimately of a one-world government, dominated by the USA and its central bank, the FED. From its very beginnings, and despite all high-sounding political proclamations to the contrary, the EU was never about free trade and free competition. For that, you don’t need tens of thousands of pages of rules and regulations! Rather, the central purpose of the EU, supported all-along by the USA, was always the weakening in particular of Germany as Europe’s economic powerhouse. To facilitate this, Germany was sent on a seemingly never-ending “guilt trip” and thus pressured to transfer increasingly larger parts of its already limited (vis-à-vis the USA) sovereignty to the EU in Brussels. Especially noteworthy in this regard: Germany’s giving up its monetary sovereignty and abandoning its traditionally “strong” currency, the DM, in favor of a “weak” Euro, issued by a European Central Bank (ECB) composed overwhelmingly of politically connected central bankers from traditionally “weak” currency countries.

The EU, then, is characterized by three main features:

First: The harmonization of the tax and regulation structure across all member states, so as to reduce economic competition and especially tax-competition between different countries and make all countries equally uncompetitive.

Second: On top of the economic and moral perversity within each country of punishing the productive and subsidizing the unproductive, another layer of international income- and wealth-redistribution is added: of punishing economically better performing countries like Germany and the countries of northern Europe and rewarding economically worse performing countries (mostly of southern Europe) and thus successively rendering the economic performance of all countries equally worse.

And third, of increasing importance especially during the last decade: In order to overcome the rising resistance, in many countries, against the steadily increasing transfer of national sovereignty to Brussels, the EU is on a crusade to erode, and ultimately destroy, all national identities and all social and cultural cohesion. The idea of a nation and of different national and regional identities is ridiculed, and multiculturalism is hailed instead as an unquestionable “good.” As well, in promoting the award of legal privileges and of “special protection” to everyone, except white, heterosexual men, and especially married family men (who are portrayed as historic “oppressors” owing compensation to everyone else as their historic “victims”) — euphemistically called “anti-discrimination” or “affirmative action” policy — the natural social order is systematically undermined. Normality is punished, and abnormity and deviance is rewarded.

Can one say, then, that the politicians running the EU are even worse than the politicians running national affairs?

No, and yes. On the one hand, all democratic politicians, with almost no exception, are morally uninhibited demagogues. One of my German books is titled The Competition of Crooks, which captures what democracy and democratic party politics are really all about. There is in this regard little if any difference between the political elites of Berlin, Paris, Rome, etc., and those running the show in Brussels. In fact, the EU elites are typically political has-beens, with the same mentality as their domestic counterparts, on the lookout for the super-lavish salaries, benefits, and pensions doled out by the EU.

On the other hand, the EU elites are worse than their political cronies at home, of course, in that their decisions and rulings always affect a far larger number of people.

What do you predict, then, will be the future of the EU?

The EU and the ECB are a moral and economic monstrosity, in violation of natural law and the laws of economics. You cannot continuously punish productivity and success and reward idleness and failure without bringing about the disaster. The EU will slide from one economic crisis to the next and ultimately break apart. The Brexit, that we have just experienced, is only the first step in this inevitable process of devolution and political decentralization.

Is there anything that an ordinary citizen can do in this situation?

For one, instead of swallowing the high-sounding blabber of politicians about “freedom,” “prosperity,” “social justice,” etc., people must learn to recognize the EU for what it really is: a gang of power-lusty crooks empowering and enriching themselves at other, productive people’s expense. And secondly, people must develop a clear vision of the alternative to the present morass: not a European Super-State or even a federation of nation States, but the vision of a Europe made up of thousands of Liechtensteins and Swiss cantons, united through free trade, and in competition with one another in the attempt of offering the most attractive conditions for productive people to stay or move. 

Can you give a comparative assessment of the USA and the situation in Europe?

The difference between the situation in the US and Western Europe is much smaller than is generally surmised on either side of the Atlantic. For one, the developments in Europe since the end of World War II have been closely watched, steered and manipulated, whether through threats or bribes, by the political elites in Washington DC. In fact, Europe has essentially become a dependency, a satellite or vassal of the US. This is indicated on the one hand by the fact that US troops are stationed all across Europe, by now all the way right up to the Russian border. And on the other hand, this is indicated by the steady pilgrimage, performed more regularly and dutifully than any Muslim’s pilgrimage to Mecca, of the European political elites and their intellectual bodyguards to Washington DC, in order to receive their masters’ blessings. Especially the German political elite, whose guilt complex has meanwhile assumed the status of some sort of mental illness, stands out in this regard by its cowardice, submissiveness, and servility.

As for US domestic affairs, both Europeans and Americans have it typically wrong. Europeans still frequently view the US as the “land of the free,” of rugged individualism, and of unhampered capitalism. Whereas Americans, insofar as they know or claim to know anything about the world outside the US at all, frequently view Europe as a place of unhinged socialism and collectivism, entirely alien to their own “American way.” In fact, there exists no principal difference between the so-called “democratic capitalism” of the US and Europe’s “democratic socialism.”

To be sure, America has always had more and more vocal proponents of free-market capitalism, it still manages to attract many of the world’s best and brightest, and indeed, the US tax-take as a percentage of GDP lags behind that of most European countries — but not by very much, and it is actually higher than in non-EU-member Switzerland, for instance. And as for US government debt as a percentage of GDP, this is actually higher than in most European countries and places the US is in the same league as an economic basket case such as Greece, for instance. True enough also: In the US you may still pretty much say whatever you want without having to fear criminal persecution, whereas taking the same liberty in most of Europe may well land you in jail. However, the disease of “political correctness,” of “non-discrimination” and “affirmative action” that is currently sweeping the Western world like an epidemic actually originated in the US, with the so-called “civil rights” legislation of the 1960s, and it is the US, where it has been carried to the greatest excesses and the height of absurdity. And so, while saying the politically “wrong” thing may not land you in jail in the US, you will have your career destroyed there just as certainly, if not more so, than in any European country.

And as for US foreign policy: All the while the political elites of the US started to “invite” the (third) world to come to the US, long before the same disastrous “multicultural” policies were also adopted in Europe, the very same elites have pursued an aggressive policy of “invade the world” and attacked, just in the most recent decades, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and spawning a wave of Islamist terrorism, mostly funded by Saudi Arabia, with whose political elites one entertains a most cordial relationship.

Finally, how do you evaluate the economic success of formerly communist countries such as China, that combine one-party dictatorships with partly free markets?

The economic success of a country depends on three interrelated factors: the security of private property and property rights, the freedom of contract and trade, and the freedom of association and disassociation — and, of course, the diligence, intelligence, and ingenuity of its people. Each and every State, insofar as it relies on taxation for its own funding, acts in violation of these requirements. But these violations can be less extensive and far-reaching, or more so, explaining the relative success of some countries and the failure of others. The internal organization of the State, whether it is a one-party dictatorship or a multi-party democracy, is essentially irrelevant in this. Indeed, as the present example of Venezuela vividly demonstrates, democracy and democratic elections can well lead to the almost complete abolition of private property rights and the freedom of contract and trade, and result in spectacular economic collapse.

As well, the comparison of the economic performance of India vs. China is instructive in this regard. While modern India, for almost seven decades now, has been ruled by democratic governments, modern China has been ruled throughout by a communist party dictatorship, roughly half of the time, during the Mao-era, by an orthodox all-out-communist party leadership, and the second half by a regime of “liberal” reform-communists. The result? Both countries are still desperately poor as measured by Western standards, indicating that both governments showed little if any respect for private property rights. But: While the economic situation was about equally desperate in both countries until the early 1980s, since then, with the onset of the “reform communism” in China, the Chinese GDP per capita has well surpassed and risen significantly above that of India, indicating a comparatively greater scope of economic freedom in China and/or an on average brighter and more diligent Chinese population.

In conclusion, then: Don’t put your trust in democracy, but neither should you trust in a dictatorship. Rather, put your hope into radical political decentralization, not just in India and China, but everywhere.

Image Source: Theophilos Papadopoulos www.flickr.com/photos/theo_reth/
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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