Yesterday, a statist said to me “…but, the state is what makes us all civilised! We’d all be children or savages if it weren’t for a government that preserved the rule of law.” Needless to say, I found this even funnier than “who will build the roads?” Nevertheless, I will write now, for the benefit of all statists who share this mistaken belief, on why this is incorrect and why, in fact, the reverse of this is true.
To begin, let us picture a child-savage combo: what are his characteristics? He is simple-minded, brutish, and paranoid. Further to this, he has an extremely high time preference rate. That is, he is only concerned with the present, either because he has no understanding of the future as a concept or because he hasn’t become civilised enough yet so as to accumulate capital. When the child-savage comes into any money, he will spend it on immediate gratification rather than delaying consumption and saving it for a rainy day. This extreme present-orientedness is his most fatal flaw, for low time preferences are the building blocks of civilisation itself (whether a Keynesian wants to acknowledge this or not, it is so).
Of course, a statist will more often than not concede that crime is uncivilised behaviour. But, why - apart from being an unethical violation of property rights – is crime uncivilised? Crime leads to an increase in time preference for the victim(s). When a thief takes £100 from you, you are deprived of £100 worth of present goods and thus in response you increase your demand for present goods over future goods. This leads to you becoming more present oriented, and less future oriented, thus you are more like the child-savage described above. Thankfully, though, for the most part, the state punishes criminals and you sometimes get your money back from thieves. And so, once the restitution has been carried out, you can continue life as normal, with no harm done to your overall time preference schedules.
But I said to my statist friend that the state is uncivilised, and it is here that the agreement ends between us. What does the state do, though, other than rob, murder, plunder and enslave? And are these activities, regardless of who is engaging in them, civilised activities? Certainly not. Here’s an example: the state takes 20 per cent of your taxable income, which just, for the sake of simplicity, turns out to be £100. The effect of this is to deprive you of £100 of present goods, which increases your demand for present goods relative to future goods. This leads to you becoming more present oriented and you are thus, using my definition of civilised, less civilised. Oh wait, that’s exactly what happens with crime.
There is one crucial difference, though, between ordinary ‘private’ crime and the state’s activities. When the state orders you to pay your taxes, you can’t use force to keep hold of your own money. When the state gives you an order, you must carry it out, and you can be sure that you will never see justice done. So, in this case, the state is engaged in institutionalised aggression as it is not simply a one-off burglary. This actually leads to an increase in time preference schedules of the taxpayers-victims. An analogy to describe the difference between a change in time preference rates and time preference schedules is the following: the former is an outlier on a scatter graph; the latter is a change in the gradient of a line on a line of best fit.
I could stop there, but I won’t. Now, I will explain why a democracy is often more de-civilising than a monarchy. For all those who find this analysis interesting, thank Hans-Hermann Hoppe for it and read ‘Democracy: The God that Failed’.
Traditionally, a monarch would ‘own’ the government ‘estate’ as his private property. And, generally speaking, you don’t see many people key their own car. Likewise, the monarch is unlikely to tax people so high that it will lower the overall value of his estate. The Monarch, as well as owning present tax receipts, also owns future tax receipts, and he will engage in rational accounting in order to maximise his total income. Regulation, too, will be fairly low so as to allow the monarch to tax a larger market.
Also, there is another restraint on the power of a monarch to tax. In a monarchy, there is a distinction between ‘them and us’; the people know they are ruled and probably don’t like it very much either. The monarch, also, doesn’t try to say that he is ‘democratic’ – whatever that really means. Instead, he is frank with the people that he has the power to take their property from them. And so, in response, the people are as frank with him: if you really wind us up, we will rise up and kill you. Indeed, there are examples throughout history of monarchs being killed or deposed when they go ‘too far’. Can you imagine the taxpaying population getting so fed up Britain today that they would rise up and kill David Cameron?
Also, a monarch embodied and represented the national culture. He was respected, if also feared. Properly, he was also elitist and so if he ever did engage in redistribution of wealth, he would purposely take from the poor to give to the rich and what is more he would not pretend to be doing the opposite. He would attract and encourage more valuable people to enter his country and thus further contribute to the phenomenon of rising property values, while not hesitating to send criminals abroad or punish them harshly.
Conversely then, in a democracy, there is no such incentive not to consume capital. To the contrary, if he doesn’t get as much tax money as possible now, then he will be kicking himself later when he is out of office. Also, there is no way that the democratic ruler can’t consume capital since there is no private ownership of the government estate.
Further, there is no class consciousness among the citizens who believe that they rule themselves in a democracy and so are happy to have their rights violated, provided that they still believe that at some point in the future they will have the opportunity to violate other people’s rights through the ballot. But, of course, the distinction between rulers and ruled doesn’t disappear, it only becomes blurred. And as people of all different cultures exist within a country, democracy allows these to fight each other through the ballot. People want an enemy, and so, now that they regard the state as a friend, they fight each other instead of fighting the real enemy. This can only lead to more expropriation of private property.
And, what sort of things do politicians have to do to get elected? They buy votes, essentially, and egalitarianism is the inevitable result of democracy. And with poor people being subsidized and rich people taxed and regulated heavily, we have more poor people and less rich people. How anybody could think that such ‘social security’ policies could have the opposite effect is beyond me.
Not only is there more legitimated aggression under a democracy, but crime is rife. Democratic rulers aren’t bothered about dealing with crime, because they have no understanding of the concept of private property. They are also not held personally accountable for anything, since there are so many rulers with no clear responsibilities. It is thus no surprise that the police are badly run and don’t actually do any policing.
Also a feature of democracy is legislation, as opposed to the enforcement of pre-existing property rights or contracts; therefore, nothing is seen as fundamentally right or fundamentally wrong. Homosexuality was illegal in the 60s, it isn’t now. Internet pornography is possible to view now, will it be next year? The tax on income over £150,000 per anum is 45 per cent this year, what will it be in 5 years? A sort of moral relativism ensues where nobody really has any clear definition of crime. Criminals, therefore, see nothing wrong with taking people’s property, and nor do politicians. Hey, theft might even be legal in 10 years. Today, law is just ‘made’; it isn’t discovered or deduced like common law or (better still) natural law.
Finally, whereas the immigration policy of a King would be typically elitist, democratic rulers are likely to purposely attract the worse kind of person: A King would attract innovators, aristocrats, and of the poor that he would attract, they would be workers; a Prime Minister happily opens the country up to literally anyone, while sending out a clear message to the rich that they will be taxed heavily and a message to the poor that they can live off other people’s money from the day they arrive.
And statists wonder why real incomes are stagnating or falling and why unemployment rates are high and why capital consumption, crime, family breakups and low IQs are the norm. Idiots, children, savages, the lot of them.