Disclaimer: “ The exposition presented below is not intended to criticize any present government across the world. Through this exposition, the author intends to merely advance a purely philosophical argument which is critical of the idea of democracy per se. The position of the author has been clearly influenced by the Philosophy of Economics of the Austrian school of economic thought, but the author doesnot endorse their position on Stateless society.”
Ever since the rise of the first human civilizations the world has been continuously shaped up by ideas, right or wrong, they might have been; over the course of this long journey the last hundred years have been rather truly exceptional for several reasons. This period has seen the fall of ancien regime of traditional monarchies everywhere with a few exceptions, and a simultaneous rise of democratism, communism, fascism.. etc. While the story of fascism has been rather brief, and communism has failed to impress the world, it is the idea of a liberal democracy that seems to have carried the day. Or has it?
The first world war was in many ways a watershed moment in history of mankind. It brought a change, a huge change, perhaps one that couldn’t be reversed under ordinary circumstances now. It started, like all traditional wars between monarchs, due to a local dispute, and like always would have ended after the belligerents had worked out a formula of compromise. However, the entry of America into the war in 1917 changed everything. It changed the contours and the scope of the war. The complexion of the war changed, it didn’t remain anymore a war fought for the limited territorial ambitions, but became instead a war of ideologies.
Whereas until 1914, there were only three democracies in Europe i.e France, Switzerland, and Portugal; and of all the monarchies that ruled Europe, only the English had a system where the parliament had the supreme powers as opposed to the reining monarch, but post war most countries in Europe adopted the system of democratic governments in full measure.
In the post world war Europe, the traditional monarchies were uprooted in favor of democracies. Even in those countries where the monarchies somehow managed to survive, these were reduced to ornamental pieces without any actual powers, which had been transferred to the body of the elected members of the parliament.
This was a huge transformation of sorts.
The republic of America under Woodrow Wilson hated the aristocracies of Europe and Russia, and even considered them a threat to democratic America. The first world war gave the Americans the lever with which to change the opinion of the world in favor of the idea of democracy as the best form of government known to man. This idea since then has gained more weight after every major international conflict. The second world war made America the leading power of the world, and once again the idea of a liberal democracy reigned supreme. The fall of Soviet Union in early nineties is often touted as a reaffirmation of the superiority of the idea of a liberal democracy.
 : On Time Preference and Civilization
For a very long time, the primitive man survived as a hunter gatherer. Among these hunter gatherers, only the most immediate needs were the most important ones, and instant gratification was the norm. Although these early hunter-gatherers had the primitive animal instinct of cooperation among them without which they couldn’t have survived at all in the wilderness of nature, but they were just not prepared to lay out the foundations of a civilization. For they had still not figured out the essential elements that give rise to the phenomenon called civilization.
The development of Agriculture was the watershed moment in human history. It changed everything. Agriculture brought with it the idea of a settled life. It also made division of labor a necessity. Forests gave way to villages, plants and animals began to be domesticated, population increased and finally reached a critical mass once farms started producing a surplus. This production of the agricultural surplus made the civilization possible. In the words of H.G. Wells, “Civilization was the agricultural surplus”. This idea of ‘surplus’ has been in many ways the very backbone of human civilization. For the first time in history, the primitive man had more than what sufficed his present consumption needs, and therefore the remainder could be provisioned for future consumption. Accustomed to confronting every eventuality that Nature occasioned with bare hands, for the Neolithic man, this was a life altering achievement. He had graduated from being just another animal, which cared only for its most instant gratifications to the first intelligent animal that figured out a ‘formula of not just bare survival but progress’, as it were, hitherto unknown to any other actor struggling in the grand amphitheater of Nature, where the survival of the fittest was the rule.
What distinguishes us from other species in the animal kingdom? It is our superior intellect, our ability to think for future, and to effectively plan for contingencies, simply put. We are an intelligent species capable of complex thought. No other life form has similar abilities. This prudential impulse, to save a stock from the current holding of goods, and to invest these savings in such ingenious instruments of production as agriculture that would yield a much higher output in future, was seminal in making the human civilization possible. And, it is this impulse that has sustained it all along. The future of human civilization depends much upon it.
An efficient system of division of labor presupposed a voluntary exchange of goods and services between individuals and various groups that constituted early societies. No man would indulge in such an exchange, voluntarily, unless it is beneficial for him to do so. The terms of this exchange must be therefore mutually agreeable and beneficial. Every person has a preference for more over fewer things, and they wish to achieve this in the shortest time possible i.e. they have a universal preference for more goods available earlier than later. This phenomenon is called time preference. Therefore a man would invest his present goods in some productive enterprise only when he could see a possibility of increasing his goods in future. At any given point of time, the time preference of one individual may differ from another, due to a combination of reasons, but nonetheless it must be invariably positive. The aggregate of all these individual time preferences constitutes what might be called the ‘social time preference’. When this social time preference is low enough, the process of civilization creation slowly sets in, and when in due course this social time preference becomes steady a civilization slowly emerges and starts to gain strength. Ceteris paribus, every civilization is the product of a low social time preference. It naturally follows then that all those factors that promote a low social time preference will help sustain a civilization, on the contrary, all those factors that promote a high social time preference will set in a process of decivilization.
[1.1] : On Appropriation of Nature, Private property, Production, Crime, Unjust State, and the Process of decivilization.
Besides time preference, another important element that is crucial to the rise of a civilization is the knowledge of such methods of production that could create a possibility of compounding. Until such a method as would produce ten tomatoes from investing one, is known, there is no incentive to save and invest that one tomato. At any given instance, the time preference of an individual would depend upon whether he has the knowledge or awareness of such a sophisticated instrument of production. Provided that the requisite knowledge or awareness exists, the amount that he could save for the purpose of investing would be limited by the availability of the current goods, his present subsistence requirements, and his time preference schedule. The higher the time preference, the lower would be the stock of savings available for investing.
In the beginning, the only thing that could be said to have been made available to man without any attending cost was his life. Everything else had to be obtained, by action. Any supply of the present goods, such as meat obtained by hunting or the wild fruits by gathering was a result of individual or family perseverance. We will call this act of perseverance the act of appropriation of nature. Even the laws of nature and facts of environments, had to be discovered and then applied. Thus neither the supply of consumable goods, nor factors of production, nor the knowledge of complex processes of production were given freely to all by nature. All these were obtained by acts of appropriation of nature by individuals or family or clan groups. Also such acts of appropriation required a certain degree of skill, and the ability to take risks. It is another matter that eventually the entire population reaped the benefits of these enterprise in one way or another. For instance, some improvements effected in the hunting technique by a group would eventually benefit the whole tribe and therefore would have some positive effect upon the time preference schedule of its members.
The social time preference would become sufficiently low, so as to allow the rise of a civilization, in so far as a healthy tradition is maintained by the people concerned, whereby all voluntary acts of appropriation of virgin nature and production thereof are freely allowed, and every man recognized the right of another to own and enjoy the fruits of his labor. In other words, let no man be scared of another! Let everyone be allowed to enjoy the benefits of their appropriated and produced goods without any fear.
A mutual voluntary exchange, between willing individuals of their appropriated or produced goods, in the form of trade beneficial to both would further lower their respective individual time preferences. Such voluntary exchanges between willing individuals in the social context would maintain a healthy social time preference, which would ensure that the civilization continues to expand and remain robust internally. Thus private property that comes into existence as a result of original act of appropriation of nature and contractual exchange between individuals, according to a mutually agreeable pact are the two real and indisputable foundations of any civilization. Anything that undermines or adversely affects these principles would inadvertently lead to a rise in the social time preference of society, and the civilization would collapse.
For the sake of convenience of address, let us call these twin rights – The original rights.
The violation of these ‘original rights’ are primarily caused by two categories of threats namely— Crime or threat of violence & Tyranny of an Unjust state. The case of crime is rather simple. There will always exist some people in a society who like to survive by unethically appropriating the fruits of others labor by threat to violence or some other underhand means. Such being the case, those with private property [property owners] henceforth, would have to arrange for means to defend their private property from these predators. In the social context, all the property owners would naturally acknowledge the right of an aggrieved property owner to punish the aggressor with due retaliatory violence or apt compensation for the damage caused. Further, it must be understood that the threat perception of crime may vary across the country and across times among different property owners. It cannot be uniform in all places, at all times, and for everybody concerned. It must be said that the impact that crime would have on the time preference of property owners can be studied only unsystematically. The best parallel could be drawn with Natural disasters. When let us say a flood strikes a country, it naturally causes losses for the property owners and reduces their supply of the present goods, thus increasing their rate of time preference in the short term. Likewise, a criminal assault on a property owner would naturally reduce the supply of his present goods, and for a short term would increase his rate of time preference. Thus criminal activity affects the time preference of an aggrieved party only for a short term, and its effects on social time preference therefore could be only studied unsystematically at any given point of time. Another significant aspect of crime that must not be lost on us is that it calls for making provisions for defense that would require a property owner to mobilize certain resources for the task, which in the absence of crime would be an avoidable expenditure.
A more serious and lasting damage to the civilizational process is brought about by the tyranny of an unjust state. For when the state violates the ‘original rights’ of a property owner, the loss thus inflicted upon him is of a more permanent character. It is even so because the victim has no means to oppose this tyranny in the first place. Moreover, the actions of a government are often considered legitimate by the general public and hardly if ever outright immoral. The state imposes taxes upon its citizens that are often unilaterally decided without involving the taxpayer, and they can be increased at the former’s discretion at any given point of time, much to the dismay of the taxpayer. The state, under absolutely whimsical pretext, may expropriate anyone’s private property without his consent at an arbitrary price. Moreover, the state can impose unreasonable restriction upon a property owner as regards the use of his property, or it may by the force of its paper laws from time to time, impose such restrictions upon the property owners as may adversely affect the principle of voluntary mutually beneficial exchange. Thus it is the existence of an unjust state that causes a more tangible danger to the attending process of civilization by negatively influencing the social time preference in a more permanent and systematic manner.
[1.3] : On State and its inevitability
A situation of conflict within a society may invariably arise, for various reasons, which may potentially snowball into a civil war leading to catastrophic consequences. We have already discussed how criminal activity adversely affects the process of civilization. The probability is high that these criminals, motivated by common interest, may organize themselves into some kind of a mafia capable of organised crime thus inflicting huge losses upon the property owners. Then there is also a constant threat of a foreign invasion. These threats are not merely counterfactual but in fact very much real. It would be counterproductive to expect the comity of property owners to deal with these pernicious threats on their own without being distracted from their primary aim. It is therefore plain that to neutralize these threats, the property owners need a permanent agency that must specialize in protection production. This need for defense eventually leads to the rise of political structures that graduate overtime into what are called the “States”. In so far as a state continues to serve its designated purpose without enlarging the scope of its jurisdiction, it extends an invaluable assistance to the progress of the larger civilization that it seeks to protect. But, there is something in the very nature of state that compels it to widen the sphere of its influence. That all states without exception by their innate character have been expansionist and monopolist is an undisputed historical fact. This intrinsic tendency to expand and monopolize various other aspects of civilizational activity beside its primary function of defense leads to the overgrowth of state, which invariably impugns the original property rights of property owners, which ultimately increases the social time preference leading to the collapse of a civilization.
The production of protection is a service monopolized by and offered to its citizens, by the state, for which they must pay compulsory taxes. Moreover, the quantum of taxes to be paid is unilaterally decided by the state without any consultation with the consumers of this service. This is clearly tyrannical for it violates the very principle of voluntary exchange at mutually agreeable and beneficial terms. As if this wasn’t enough, the state also reserves the right of expropriating anyone’s private property under any pretext at arbitrary terms. Therefore, it is plain that it is best to live under a state whose business is somehow limited to the production of defense.
Why this has not been the case historically? And how could such an ideal condition be brought about in the political structures of the future? These question are beyond the scope of our present exposition and will not be answered here.
[1.4] : On Monarchy and Democracy
In the absence of a government the relations between individuals are invariably in a state of nature. The mighty preys upon the weak. Thus a government is inevitable for order, stability, and peace. This is the underlying assumption upon which Thomas Hobbes founded his political philosophy.
Of course this assumption is not immune to criticism and can be contested, but it is not something that we intend to do here. On the contrary, we intend to take this assumption as inherently valid, and within its universe of discourse we will attempt to draw out a comparison between the monarchical and democratic forms of government.
It is generally believed these days that democracy is the best system of government ever known to man, and the true character of a monarchy is essentially exploitative. We intend to challenge and debunk this false claim.
It is true that all forms of government by innate character are monopolists, when it comes to imposing taxes and expropriating private property. No other individual or agency can freely enter into this business of taxation and expropriation. This is the exclusive monopolistic privilege of the territorial sovereign. Under a government expropriation in fact becomes institutionalized. However, under a monarchical system the expropriation of private property can never be legitimized by the sovereign. Why it is so? We will discuss later on. What must not be lost on us, however, is that in modern democracies this expropriation of private property is not only considered legitimate, but also in fact it has become the very engine that is now driving them.
Much has already been spoken about the process of civilization and the factors that influence it positively and negatively in some detail already. It must be added, however, that any form of government must be judged from the standpoint of how it affects the attending process of civilization. Does it help keep the social time preference low enough thus aiding the process of civilization? Or does it by virtue of its inherent systemic flaws sends it soaring high? The fact remains that different forms of governments affect the social time preference, and consequently the attending process of civilization in different measures.
Every act of expropriation by a government would inevitably produce victims, who are naturally unlikely to cooperate with the government, on the contrary given they have sufficient means would do everything in their ability to bring down its credibility. It is for this reason every government works so hard to develop a sense of legitimacy for itself among its subjects, so that all its actions are regarded legitimate and just, thus rendering these victims without a remedy.
In a monarchical system, the ruling elite by his innate character owns the capital value of the state. Assuming no more than self interest, the ruler will try to maximize his wealth. He would contain the temptation of increasing his current income at the expense of more than a proportional drop in the present value of his assets. It makes sense for him to conduct the affairs of his government in such a way that may ensure the augmentation of capital value of his Kingdom. Private ownership almost always involves economic calculations and naturally promotes farsightedness. Thus a king would always exercise his monopoly privilege of taxing the people with some moderation. He would avoid taxing his subjects so heavily as to damage his future earning potential to the point where the present value of his kingdom eventually falls. On the contrary, he would show a systematic restrain in taxing his people for the lower the taxes the more productive the population would be, and the more productive the population the higher would be the value of the rulers state. Further, it suits the ruler to put his monopoly over the judicial process and law enforcement agencies to good use by enforcing the pre-existing private property law. Excluding his own privileged position, he would see to it that everyone else acquired their income and property through their own efforts or through a contractual exchange. Any transgression upon private property rights would be punished duly, for the less crimes there would be the more private wealth there would be for taxation and expropriation.
The private ownership of the government calls for moderation in taxation and expropriation for yet another reason. All private property is by definition exclusive property. Those who own private property are entitled to exclude anyone and everyone from its use and enjoyment. The owner may only include his family, close friends, and other acquaintances and employees. In the case of a monarchical government this exclusive character of private property takes on a special meaning. It means that everyone except the king and his family, and the larger aristocracy are excluded from drawing any benefits from the movable and immovable wealth of the state. This exclusive privilege is passed on within family across generations. Only the members of the aristocracy could hope to be the next king and no one else. This creates a clear class consciousness. Thus we have two classes of men i.e. The aristocrats and the common masses. A few rulers and the many ruled. This class consciousness plays an important role in checking the absolute power that the ruler exercises upon the ruled. The masses develop a kind of solidarity in consequence of recognition of their common identity as being ruled. In the event of excess from the ruling class, the ruled can always rise up in rebellion and this may put the very legitimacy upon which the power of king depends into jeopardy. The ruling class understands this, and therefore it is not unlikely that a tyrant king might be removed by another member of his own family through assassination.
In a stark contrast to this moderation exercised by the monarchs, the elected democrats have no such incentive to not act as absolute parasites and most evil tyrants. For a democratic ruler can merely use the government apparatus to his personal advantage, but he does not own it. He does not own the capital value of the state like a king. He can neither transfer the estate to his heirs nor could he sell the public properties and pocket the proceeds from such sales. He merely decides the current use of the government resources, but he owns nothing and therefore he does not have any incentive to augment the capital value of his country. In a stark contrast to the king, the elected head of state, who is a caretaker at best, would do everything to consume as much as he could at the expense of the capital value of the state, for his position is not permanent and he may never get a second chance. A democratically elected man has absolutely no interest in not ruining the country unlike a king.
Moreover, there is no clear and limiting class consciousness between the rulers and the ruled because the entry to government has been thrown open to all. Any Tom, Dick, and Harry can now dream to be the ruler. Consequently there is no clear class consciousness between the ruler and the ruled. On the contrary an illusion may take roots among the masses that no such difference actually exists. Empty terms such as self rule and the right to self determination are some of the catchy but insubstantial phrases that modern democratic governments have made popular to enchant the masses. For this reason, it is often said that democracy has been a liberating force and an improvement over monarchy. This illusion ensures public support. Thus public resistance against the government power has been systematically weakened. For all these reason, while taxation and expropriation appeared oppressive to people during monarchy, they appear much less so now. Consequently, the taxes have been rising directly through taxation and indirectly through the inflation created by the fiat currency. The size of governments is becoming increasingly enormous with an ever swelling army of public servants. The combination of these factors has changed significantly the nature of government’s working and its internal and external policies.
During monarchy the kings would exercise prudence while incurring debt as they would be directly liable to pay back. The elected man is hardly liable personally for the bad debts incurred during his tenure. It’s is the common man who is made liable to pay back. This load upon the common man has been rising in every democratic nation. The more the debt rises the more load there would be upon the future generations. The governments then would tax the productive population even more dearly. This would naturally kill the appetite for productive enterprise and long term investments among the people; the people would becomes more present oriented than future oriented; and this will send the social time preference soaring high leading to decivilization.
Further, the democratic governments unlike the monarchies have no incentive in upholding the pre-existing private property law. More and more paper laws are establishing a new system of public laws that will eventually call into question the immutable standard of the private law. The public laws are products of legislation and therefore are of a fleeting character. What is considered right now may become wrong in the future. Thus making the future look uncertain in the absence of an immutable standard of law. All this would inevitably affect the social time preference adversely thus accelerating the process of decivilization.
Rather than upholding private law the democratic governments world over have brazenly adopted a policy of redistributing private wealth without giving a thought about the adverse effects it would have on future productivity. This redistribution lies at the very heart of the modern welfare states. Given the requirement of winning a popular vote to attain and retain public office, there is little surprise that advocacy of this redistribution policy has almost become a precondition of election to high office.
Backed by a general consensus among the political establishment and paper laws thereof, the redistribution of wealth among the people could assume many forms. It may take the form of simple payment transfers in which the productive Peter is taxed to pay the non – productive Paul. The rule is simple enough : Take from the “haves” to appease the “have-nots”. It may also take the form of free or below cost provision of goods and services such as education, healthcare, or infrastructure etc for a certain class of populations by governments.Or It may take the form of reserving certain political, economic, and educational opportunities for a particular section of people only at the expense of merit.
Regardless of the form redistribution of wealth may assume in a welfare state, it will always have a two fold effect on the population. Firstly, since this redistribution is essentially a product of legislation whose character is mutable, it will make the productive individuals more present oriented as they will find this legal environment more uncertain than the previous where private property rights were considered sacred. This will eventually send the social time preference to soar up.
Secondly, in any redistribution scheme the recipients are made better off without any effort on their part. Therefore, the people at the receiving end of distribution will have little incentive to become productive even in future. Likewise the productive people, from whose wealth the expropriation is done, will gradually lose the incentive to remain productive. Hence more and more people would like to become a part of the receiving class, which naturally means that the number of producers will gradually but constantly fall. To cut a long story short, a welfare state is the surest way of ensuring the collapse of a civilization. Instead of reducing the numbers of – the unemployed, the old and infirm, the uneducated, the homeless, the young, the stupid, the farmers, the unmarried, the bums – the policy of redistribution will end up multiplying these numbers even more.
Even on the foreign policy front, the changes that free entry of people into government effects are quite alarming. While a king would satiate his ambitions of territorial expansion by some contrivance such as a matrimonial alliance as opposed to by means of war, war being a costly and risky option, the elected head on the contrary has no other but military option at his disposal. It must be understood here that such ambitions of territorial expansion among the elected heads of government are not unusual and no less milder than the ambitions of the kings. Hence the likelihood of war would inevitably increase. Not only the possibility but also the nature of war would change significantly. The ambitions of a monarch are essentially territorial and would often end with a compromise in the event of war. In a stark contrast to this, the democratic wars are ideologically driven and turn out to be total wars. No difference is recognized between the combatants and the non combatants for the modern interstate wars are essentially national wars. Resistance against higher taxes to fund a war effort is considered treason, and conscription becomes a rule rather than exception. The horrors that the world witnessed during the two world wars were unprecedented in human history.
In the aftermath of the first world war, backed by the democratic American government the idea of democratic form of government gained currency across the world. Within just a period of a hundred years this idea has totally ruined the world. Almost every human problem anywhere in the world has some direct or indirect correspondence with the democratic governments. It is impossible to discuss all these problems at length here, but from the foregoing exposition it is clear that democracy is an inherently flawed and immoral system of government. And since the fate of human civilization has always been shaped by ideas, wrong or right, they may have been, it is time to make amends and give a farewell to the idea of a democracy.