UPDATE: There is a much more polished and accurate version of the below translation, by Robert Groezinger, HERE.
Professor Hoppe has been interviewed in German, here.
Because I’m flying to Heidelberg tomorrow, and to provide a TheGodThatFailed service, I thought I would try to translate his interview into English, with the inestimable help of Google Translate.
This is a very loose translation, to hopefully pick up the flow, as opposed to an exact word-for-word translation. My apologies, in advance, if real German speakers judge it to be a little too loose.
Firstly Mr. Hoppe, thank you for taking the time to give us this interview. You have written in your new book, The Competition of Rogues, that “We do not need a European general government, seeking to establish a European Union … but we do need a Europe and a world consisting of hundreds or thousands of tiny Liechtensteins and Singapores.” Such a tendency is inapparent at the moment, and we have rather the opposite tendency in view. Does it have to get worse in the short run before it gets better in the long run, politically and economically?
Unfortunately, I’m afraid it does. We will probably have to experience national bankruptcy spreading through Portugal, Spain, Italy and ultimately on to Germany. Only then, I fear, will it at last become clear what many already suspect now: that the EU is nothing but a gigantic machinery of income and wealth redistribution, from Germany and the Netherlands to Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc.. But that same insanity, the same mess, even applies within each individual country: redistribution of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg to Bremen and Berlin, from the United Provincial Town small towns, via company or industry, to others, from Hinz to Kunz, etc. – and always the same perverse pattern: the redistribution of productive countries, regions, places, companies and individuals to those who are less productive. Bankruptcy will bring all of this to light in a dramatic fashion.
And perhaps then, finally, will come the realization that democracy - the notion that political dirty tricks are done in the name of the people – is nothing more than an especially insidious form of communism, and that the politicians who have engaged in this immoral and economic madness and who have enriched themselves personally (never, of course, being liable for the damages they have caused!), are nothing more than a despicable bunch of communist crooks.
Recently we published an excerpt on http://www.misesinfo.org/ from Von Mises’ book Bureaucracy, which states: “A representative democracy can not exist if a large proportion of voters are on the public payroll.” You, too, echo this point, almost 70 years later. When will Von Mises’s finding finally bear fruit?
I go even further in my views than Mises. I maintain, and have tried to confirm this in many different ways in my work, that it is democracy that is causally responsible for the fatal conditions afflicting us now. The number of productive people is constantly decreasing, and the number of parasitic people consuming the income and wealth of this dwindling number of productive people is increasing steadily. This cannot continue, in the long run.
That the whole democratic house of cards has not yet completely collapsed speaks volumes about the still tremendous creative power of capitalism, even in the face of ever-increasing governmental strangulation. And this fact also can make us think about what economic wonders would have been possible, if we had left capitalism unimpeded and exempted it from such parasitism.
If and when this knowledge finally bears fruit will depend upon the class consciousness of the population. As long as it remains that of state-sponsored Marxism, and that this prevails in the body of public opinion, there remains an irreconcilable clash of interests between the capitalist employers and the workers, and between rich and poor. If nothing changes in this prevailing opinion, disaster is inevitable.
Alternatively, a fundamental change can only occur if people develop the correct understanding that the only antagonistic conflict of interest in society is the one between tax-payers, as the exploited, and tax-consumers, as the exploiters: that’s to say, between the class of people who earn their income and assets by their production, which is bought voluntarily and valued accordingly by others, and the class of those who produce nothing of value, but who live instead by enriching themselves via the incomes and assets of others, forcibly taken via taxation; this is all government employees, and all recipients of government “welfare assistance” subsidies, and other monopolistic privileges.
Only if the class of voluntary-market producers clearly recognise this, and publicly pronounce that they are finally confident of their own high moral case (of pure capitalism), and abandon foolhardy teaching, and proclaim that the political class exist only as a moral and economic insolence and that the political class represents an offensive gang of parasites, and accuses them directly of this, it may succeed, roll back and eventually eliminate these parasites.
You say that ordinary people “only care about their daily lives”, and “think about nothing philosophical.” But is it asking too much of ordinary people to do more than this? In a deteriorating economic environment, most people will be busy enough earning a living to survive, without worrying about philosophy.
My statement was not a criticism of “Joe Bloggs”, but a simple statement. I think it is totally normal that most people never rise to the level of philosophical questions. There are always only a few people interested in such questions, and even fewer people who try to debate, advance, solve, and resolve these problems.
My comments actually support an intention to encourage the average consumer in their systematic thinking. To tell the consumer, and also the intellectuals, that the popular prejudice against intellectuals – that they are useless in most cases and foppish smartasses – does have a point. There are too many intellectuals, because the states pays for them and subsidises them, via taxes taken from rest of us. That this is an object and the result of statism, to generate necessary support from intellectuals, has in some sense discoloured and distorted our thinking. The average consumer has to pay for the whole wasteful nonsense, and therefore has every reason to cry out and to be indignant.
Your book’s thesis is that the government is a monopolist of ultimate justice and law enforcement and that every monopoly is always bad from the perspective of a citizen consumer. Your alternative solution is a private law society. How can a “layman” understand what this entails?
The basic idea is quite simple. Abolish monopoly and encourage competition.
Currently, it is true that in the event of a conflict between a citizen and the state, a creature of the state (such as a state-employed judge) decides who is in the right. If the state decides, for example, that I owe it more taxes and it forbids me to allow people to smoke in my private restaurant, and I do not agree with either of these pronouncements, then what exactly can I do about it? I must go to a state court, staffed by judges who themselves are paid from taxes to enforce government regulations. And what will these judges decide? Of course, that everything above is legal! Government-staged robbery, assault, manslaughter, murder, war – everything is controlled via these means, “legally”. Just try it once and accuse Messrs. Bush or Obama or even our aunt Angela Merkel of aiding and abetting murder and mayhem in Iraq or Afghanistan. Such an action, on our part, would probably fail to get accepted by the courts, and the outcome would in any case be clear from the outset, even if it were accepted: acquittal!
In a private law society, if I have such a conflict, we would use an independent arbitrator instead, separate from both parties, and in competition for voluntarily paying customers with other arbitrators. We would not use an inherently biased judge working for and paid directly by just one of the parties, but we would use a neutral third party to adjudicate the normal human legal conflicts arising between existing and recognized property rights and private contract law.
Such a third party will always want to earn and keep its reputation as a neutral impartial judge, in order to avoid being ousted, for lack of clients, from the professional conciliator market. If this were the case, then the judgments would be predictable and clear, in the two cases already outlined above. That my income from my work is my property (not the state’s) and that the restaurant is my property (not the state’s). Therefore, any government-imposed tax upon me or use restrictions upon my property (such as a ‘no smoking’ ban) would therefore be judged unlawful, indeed, robbery and expropriation. And of course, Bush, Obama, Merkel (and many more) would be declared guilty of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter (among countless other offenses).
Why, exactly, is there is a state judicial monopoly, rather than a competitive and non-monopolistic legal system? Because if we did have a competitive legal system, it would immediately be apparent, in the words of St. Augustine, that the state is nothing but a “great band of robbers,” a mafia, only a much larger, a more overwhelming and a more dangerous Mafia than the usual form (seen in novels and movies).
Would the State be allowed any responsibilities in your model?
Indirectly, I’ve already answered that question. What tasks would you like to hand to a band of robbers? They should all resign! And they should disobliged of (what they consider to be) their property – the entire so-called public property – all of which should be returned to its rightful owners, i.e. the tax payers would be reimbursed according to the amount of their tax payments!
However: These bandits never think about abdicating! And they also never think about compensating their victims: the huge number of them robbed, dispossessed, killed and murdered!
And that will not change – unless public opinion generates immense pressure to face them down. And since I’m back to the subject of class consciousness, the hope that this desired abdication and compensation will exist only if the victims (as well as an increasing number of innocent and harmless state collaborators) recognise the state for what it is, a band of robbers, and then prescribe and implement the appropriate course of treatment.
Robbers who are recognised and treated as such, may fail to last long.
Allow us to conclude with the subject of money, where even, in your words, the average consumer is now clear that something is wrong. Please explain your statement that “there is no reason why the state should be involved with the production of money.”
Because the state is a monopoly and monopolies are always bad for the consumer (as they are inversely always useful for the monopolist). The same goes for money and the government’s money monopoly.
Only the central government can produce money, which is why the money has gone bad. Instead, as in the former days of gold or silver, the world has at present times nothing other than paper money (dollars, euros, yen, etc.). That’s great for the monopolist. It can be virtually free to print money and buy expensive goods such as houses and cars. A veritable magic wand! Who would not want such a wizardly rod? However, for everyone else, it is much less wizardly. More paper money fails to make all of us richer. It’s just more paper. And every new piece of printed paper reduces the purchasing power of all other previously-existing paper bills. And every newly printed bill leads to a redistribution of social wealth. The money printers enrich themselves and their share of society’s wealth increases. The money printers now own more houses and cars previously unowned by them. And to a corresponding degree in return, this money printing reduces the riches of everyone else, who now own correspondingly fewer houses and cars.
These machinations take place every day, at an almost unimaginable scale, and all of it is nothing more than a gigantic case of fraudulent theft.
Despite this fraud, our high-flown and unintelligible talking heads and so-called economic and financial experts on radio, television, and other mainstream media, say nothing on this subject. This is either because they are deliberately withholding the obvious conclusions above, against their better judgment, and the facts, or because they are deliberately concealing the truth. Or possibly because they were so stupid during their university studies, that they are incapable of recognising even simple facts and relationships.
What would happen if the government’s money monopoly were abolished and everyone were allowed to make perfect copies of the state’s paper money (as they can now produce perfect copies of apples, pears, wheat seeds, nails, houses, computers, etc., in competitive industry) ? Then paper money would immediately be produced in such quantities that the value (purchasing power) of a paper bill, overnight, would quickly become the bare physical value of the paper itself! With such bills only being worth the paper they are literally printed upon, they would thus become unsuitable as a general means of payment. Paper money would disappear as money, and the state would lose the magic stroke of its wand. (This is precisely why the government insists so jealously on its monopoly right of printing money!)
But does this mean that money would no longer exist? In a competitive environment, better monies would be produced. Why? Because there would remain a large demand for a good means of exchange.
Why do people hold money? Why are their assets not held only in the form of consumer goods and capital goods? Why is there usually a portion of their assets held simply as money (which is neither consumed nor used for other production purposes, but just held, perhaps in exchange later for something else)? Answer: Because there is uncertainty in our world. Because it gives holders of money the ability to deal with unpredictable events and shifting human needs, which even a set of pre-held consumer and capital goods, along with insurance provisions, may not be enough to deal with. In such an unpredictable world, a medium of exchange is a supply of goods which are distinguished by their exceptional marketability. At any time, this liquid supply of goods can be directly and immediately exchanged for the widest range of any consumer or producer goods necessary to cope with unanticipated situations.
Historically, these highly marketable goods were gold and silver, because these best met the features necessary for a medium of exchange to provide “uncertainty insurance”. Gold and silver emerged as the goods with the highest marketability. They were the most easily salable and most widely accepted of all goods. And money was therefore either gold or silver.
When the government paper money monopoly eventually disappears, gold or silver will likely recover their former roles as money (and paper will play the role in the new monetary system that it used to have too: namely to act as Gold or Silver title deeds, precious metal notes, or exchange certificates).
Thank you, Mr. Hoppe.
No, thank you Google Translate, plus some judicious jiggery-pokery of my own. When I get to Heidelberg tomorrow, I shall test my German again, with the immortal and classic phrase “Kann Ich zwei bieren kaufen, bitte. Gross Stein!”.