As I start to prepare for the upcoming Freedom Fest in July, I’m filled with deep appreciation for those in the liberty community fighting for freedom on a multitude of issues throughout society. The world has seen unprecedented intrusions on personal liberty in recent years making the brave voices in the liberty community more vital than ever.
The common root I see among all the issues being discussed at Freedom Fest this year comes down to the fundamental breakdown of the Democratic Republic. The problem of Democracy is something that needs to be strongly examined at this year’s Freedom Fest. The Democratic Republic has illustrated over the last 200+ years that it is at odds with natural order and self-determination. The once hopeful idea of a small representative government of the people has morphed into an institutional monopoly of oppression.
The work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe is at the forefront of my mind as I prepare my thoughts and ideas for this year’s event. His critique of the State and Democracy has never been more relevant. His body of work is one of the few pushing back on the broader narrative coming out of institutional monopolies.
Hoppe was one of the first voices in the liberty movement to question the infallibility of Democracy, at a time when the Democratic Republic was hailed throughout the world as the preeminent form of government. In his book, Democracy: The God That Failed, Hoppe explains how lawmaking is not only disruptive to the markets but contributes to chaos instead of peace. He argues persuasively that instead of leading to a freer and more prosperous world where humans actively build their civilization, democracy pacifies the natural inclinations of man and halts human progress, resulting in a decivilized society.
“Like Crime, government interference with private property rights reduces someone’s supply of present goods and thus raises his effective time preference…Consequently, future property rights violations, rather than becoming less frequent, become institutionalized.”Democracy: The God That Failed, Hoppe, P. 13
At the center of government property rights violations is positive law or known as legislative law making within a Democratic Republic. At any point in time throughout the United States; city councils, state legislators, and Congress are enacting new laws that will subject individuals to some action that will likely disrupt their lives. For example, since World War II, Congress has typically enacted 4-6 million words of new law in each two-year session.
Positive laws take away from peaceful individuals’ ability to voluntarily interact with one another on terms they see fit for their person and property. Many in the liberty community see this as a violation of property rights. Any violation of legislative lawmaking is typically met with violent force by the State which is becoming more prevalent as the State continues to expand aggressively into all areas of society.
As an entrepreneur, I live and breathe the uncertainty of legislative lawmaking and how those laws will be enforced by regulatory bodies. It drastically changes resource allocations, investments, and risk taking for anyone running a business. This touches on the very foundation of time preferences within society.
The reality of legislative lawmaking was on global display during the COVID pandemic as lawmakers created reactive and often contradicting laws that were subjectively enforced. Eventually society stopped listening and took right and wrong into their own hands. Some did this peacefully and others did it violently. This is the result of a broken governance structure that does not protect immutable law and self-sovereignty. Hoppe illustrates why democratic law making ultimately undermines the rule of law over time.
First, the mere act of legislating – of democratic lawmaking – increases the degree of uncertainty. Rather than being immutable and hence predictable, law becomes increasingly flexible and unpredictable. What is right and wrong today may not be so tomorrow. The future is thus rendered more haphazard. Consequently, all-around time-preference degrees will rise, consumption and short-term orientation will be stimulated, and at the same time the respect for all laws will be systematically undermined and crime promoted for if there is no immutable standard of “right,” then there is also no firm definition of “crime”.Democracy: The God That Failed, Hoppe, P. 13
The United States and many democracies around the world are a living depiction of this statement. It is not lost on the liberty community that the disregard for law is starting to rise as the people living under democracies for the last 200 years grow tired of the subjective nature of law. The very arbiters of justice in the United States have vastly different philosophies of which crimes should and should not be prosecuted or which individuals should or should not be prosecuted. Democracy promised to bring more stability and equality under the law but time and pressure on this governance structure is illustrating a different story.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there is no greater example of the uncertainty of democratic lawmaking than the medicinal plant Cannabis. Cannabis has been around since the third millennium BC. This plant has been used by consumers for clothing, medicinal purposes, as well as religious and recreational use.
It was not until Democracy was adopted across the globe in the 20th Century that wide scale bans on the medicinal plant occurred. Most of these restrictions were due to racial and class pressure. Fast forward 100 years and the legislative pendulum is swinging back to legalize the medicinal plant. But even as that pendulum is swinging, there is widespread contradiction and conflict between Federal, State and Local laws, which only drives a deeper distrust in, and disregard for, the laws that attempt to govern us.
What caused such stark differences in legality in a short period of time (historically speaking) for a medicinal plant that has been consumed for hundreds of years? The short answer is collectivism and legislative positive law. This collectivist approach to positive law degrades what Murray Rothbard defined as individual self-sovereignty.
Sovereignty of the individual: the individual is sovereign over his own person and actions and over his own property. This may be termed individual self-sovereignty.Man, Economy, & State with Power & Market, Rothbard, P. 629
When individual decisions are no longer voluntary but subordinate to a collectivist opinion there is bound to be extreme changes in position over short periods of time as power structures shift. Thus, truth is replaced by monopoly power and self-sovereignty suffers during the process.
The shift towards higher societal time preferences is also prevalent in the centrally controlled economy. After nearly 15-years of negative real interest rates the Federal Reserve has systematically incentivized consumption over savings. This has led to a degradation of real savings throughout society causing further long-term decivilizing effects. This scheme of increasing societal time preferences through negative real interest rates by the Federal Reserve has resulted in $12.5 Trillion in new money creation since 2009, nearly 2/3rds of the current money supply, and the highest price inflation in nearly 60 years.
Like legislative bodies, central banks are also not infallible and by manufacturing interest rates they are creating further uncertainty and instability in the economy. Central bankers cannot change the fact there will always be a natural rate of interest and sound logic supports the idea that this rate will always be positive. As Hoppe points out, the impact of manipulating time preferences has far reaching impacts throughout society.
“if government property-rights violations take their course and grow extensive enough, the natural tendency of humanity to build an expanding stock of capital and durable consumer goods and to become increasingly more farsighted and provide for ever-more distant goals may not only come to a standstill, but may be reversed by a tendency toward decivilization: formerly provident providers will be turned into drunks or daydreamers, adults into children, civilized men into barbarians, and producers into criminals.”Democracy: The God That Failed, Hoppe
As democracies around the world are being brought to the brink, it’s important to remember that natural order and self-determination is the path forward. By natural order I mean peaceful and voluntary interactions governed by immutable law and order. At its core it’s about protecting self-sovereignty and every individual’s natural right to control their property and person.
We are seeing Mises, Rothbard and Hoppe’s criticisms of democracy unfold before our very eyes. The liberty movement stands on the foundation of centuries of knowledge. Knowledge that has not been impacted or corrupted by the State. It is the responsibility of the liberty community to stand resolute behind this body of knowledge as the broader population is finally starting to see the frailty of the Democratic Republic and looking for the truth behind why this system of governance is breaking under its own weight.
Freedom Fest Panels:
 GovTrack: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/statistics
 Historical Controversies Podcast: The Roots of Drug Prohibition in America
 FRED Economic Data: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/REAINTRATREARAT1YE