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Analysis posted Sep 26 2010, 4:36 PM Category: Commentary Source: Hans-Hermann Hoppe Print

The Impossibility of Limited Government and the Prospects for a Second American Revolution

by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

[Extracted from On the Impossibility of Limited Government and the Prospects for a Second American Revolution, Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains why limited government is an impossibility and how we could change things to create a truly free society.]

After more than two centuries of "constitutionally limited government," the results are clear and incontrovertible. At the outset of the American "experiment," the tax burden imposed on Americans was light, indeed almost negligible. Money consisted of fixed quantities of gold and silver. The definition of private property was clear and seemingly immutable, and the right to self-defense was regarded as sacrosanct. No standing army existed, and, as expressed in George Washington's Farewell Address, a firm commitment to free trade and a noninterventionist foreign policy appeared to be in place. Two hundred years later, matters have changed dramatically.[16]

Now, year in and year out, the American government expropriates more than 40 percent of the incomes of private producers, making even the economic burden imposed on slaves and serfs seem moderate in comparison. Gold and silver have been replaced by government-manufactured paper money, and Americans are being robbed continually through money inflation. The meaning of private property, once seemingly clear and fixed, has become obscure, flexible, and fluid. In fact, every detail of private life, property, trade, and contract is regulated and re-regulated by ever-higher mountains of paper laws (legislation). With increasing legislation, ever more legal uncertainty and moral hazards have been created, and lawlessness has replaced law and order.

Last but not least, the commitment to free trade and noninterventionism has given way to a policy of protectionism, militarism, and imperialism. In fact, almost since its beginnings the US government has engaged in relentless aggressive expansionism and, starting with the Spanish-American War and continuing past World War I and World War II to the present, the United States has become entangled in hundreds of foreign conflicts and risen to the rank of the world's foremost warmonger and imperialist power. In addition, while American citizens have become increasingly more defenseless, insecure, and impoverished, and foreigners all over the globe have become ever more threatened and bullied by US military power, American presidents, members of Congress, and Supreme Court judges have become ever more arrogant, morally corrupt, and dangerous.[17]

What can possibly be done about this state of affairs? First, the American Constitution must be recognized for what it is an error.

As the Declaration of Independence noted, government is supposed to protect life, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet in granting government the power to tax and legislate without consent, the Constitution cannot possibly assure this goal but is instead the very instrument for invading and destroying the right to life, property, and liberty. It is absurd to believe that an agency that may tax without consent can be a property protector. Likewise, it is absurd to believe that an agency with legislative powers can preserve law and order. Rather, it must be recognized that the Constitution is itself unconstitutional, i.e., incompatible with the very doctrine of natural human rights that inspired the American Revolution.[18]

Indeed, no one in his right mind would agree to a contract that allowed one's alleged protector to determine unilaterally, without one's consent, and irrevocably, without the possibility of exit, how much to charge for protection; and no one in his right mind would agree to an irrevocable contract which granted one's alleged protector the right to ultimate decision making regarding one's own person and property, i.e., of unilateral lawmaking.[19]

Second, it is necessary to offer a positive and inspiring alternative to the present system.


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Comments 1 - 17 of 17 Add Comment Page 1 of 1
Anonymous blogger

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 12:12 AM

207225 Brilliant analysis. Lysander Spooner expanded this concept in "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority"

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 12:36 AM

No question, it's completely irrelevant at this point regardless as it's only used to justify the rule of the government in the sense they can point to some document and say it gives them the right to do x y and z criminal act which normally no one could get away with. IE stealing from people is justified because it's taxation to "provide for the general welfare."

The question at this point is just where do we go from here as a society, going back to the constitution is not a solution, it was a valiant try but as this article explains it has a fatal flaw. Having a 'limited' government is an absolute impossibility, it's either try freedom (anarchism) or go back into despotism (government).
Anonymous blogger

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 1:20 AM

207225 It is a dilemma.

Clearly, violent revolution will lead us nowhere other than justified (in the State's eyes) increased control which will lead us to the ultimate scientific dictatorship "for our protection", which one may argue(without sounding like a "conspiracy theorist") seems to be the ultimate goal of the statist/corporatist elite, judging by the concerted world-wide policies being slowly implemented. Even though I understand the feeling behind "Live free or die", I would like to try not to die for awhile while working on the "free" part while we have time... especially for my children's sake. Also - and others may disagree -violence will ultimately never achieve a non-violent goal.

Clearly, education and discussion about the issues, their history and their genesis is key so that they are understood at a fundamental level. Without a clear understanding of the problem, there can't be a viable solution. After that, hopefully natural organization, local cooperation, and wide-spread non-violent resistance can carry the transformation forward.

Besides trying to live my convictions in real life (which I believe is truly key!), I am always open to consider practical ideas regarding how to go about achieving this critical change at a societal scale. You could call it "Fabian Anarchism"...

How else can we work towards true freedom in a non-violent way?

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 1:54 AM

I think the solution is almost entirely education based. Force doesn't really help to attain any goals beyond subjugation. A violent revolution I doubt would achieve much more than replacing one tyranny with another.

The problem isn't the goons in power, it's the structure of the society and the character structure of the people in the society. Believing in government is much the same as believing the earth is flat.

I think once the knowledge of the nature of the government is made known things will change of themselves without anyone having to do anything. The problem is people think violating others rights is fine and dandy if someone votes for it or if it's done by men in suits and robes. They give a superhuman aura of legitimacy to the state and everything it does due to brainwashing and a yearning to escape responsibility. The state serves as the ultimate excuse for irresponsibility, it's beckon call is "I'll take care of you and protect you from yourself."

Supporting a state is an act of mental cowardice in itself, it says to the world "I am incapable of self-regulation, I need some dictator to boss me around therefor you do too."

I think the main issue is merely to get across to people, "do you think someone who wants to go live in the woods by themselves should be allowed to?"

I think probably 99% of people would say yes, even totally brainwashed statists.

What they don't understand is once you moved out to the woods and didn't have to pay taxes and be robbed and constantly threatened by government goon squads every software business in the world would move in, you'd renovate the place and build skyscrapers and every smart and productive person in the world would move into your spot in the woods where you're being left alone.

The statist society would collapse if anyone was allowed out of it. What does that say about statism? It's entirely based on force and control.

I've explained this to a few people and they all admitted it was true and seemed to really come around to the ideas. I really think an anarchist utopia is inevitable because it's simply a factual description of the nature of humanity and the nature of a free society, it's the modern day equivalent of saying the earth is round. Statism is only held up based on psychological aberrations and mental delusions, it's a rickety house built on quicksand which is ready to collapse the minute mere public opinion changes.

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 2:00 PM

6580 Chris.

there are no utopias. consider the case of the serial killer and his/her victums to assure the serial killers happiness you have to let him/her kill whatever sets them off. Maintaining the victums happiness and the potential happiness of those beside them would depend on you stopping the serial killer(jailing, killing etc...).

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 2:15 PM

I just meant utopia in the sense of "an ideal place or state," not some socialist dreamworld.

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 2:24 PM

Also, like I said in my post above, no violence would be involved. I think the more people understand the nature of the state the more things will change of their own volition, just like once people realized you don't need to sacrifice virgins into a volcano to get rain etc., people changed based off their new information.

Statism and statists are the modern day equivalent of witch doctors saying unless you bow before me and sacrifice some virgin you won't get rain, same goes for the way the state says unless you bow before me your society will descend into chaos.

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 2:30 PM

The society would be no more utopian than going to a great business or getting a great product, the only difference is instead of having a monopoly provide the "services" at the barrel of a gun, you'd have private companies providing services voluntarily based off actual demand for the hope of profits. Going to Costco is not a utopia to us, but to some hunter gatherer who can barely survive it would be like stepping into paradise.

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 3:16 PM

72158 You should G.K. Chesterton's (the Apostle of Common Sense) "Distributism." Interesting stuff. Good article Chris. Thanks for this site

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 5:28 PM

6580 chris
"no violence would be involved"

such a viewpoint is naive. you may not commit violence but there will always be those who will use it. Those who will laugh at any attempts to exocommunicate or banish them. Those who will if they are nice will fire at but not hit any of those trying to form a wall or something to prevent them from gaining what they want.

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 5:49 PM

People have a right to defend themselves violently from violent goons, the difference is now the violent goons wear badges and costumes and call themselves the government and we have basically no right to defend ourselves from them. Because they don't protect anyone we're basically left to fend for ourselves. Crime is at record lows these days because everyone went out and bought guns thanks to the Obama regime, so even without their "protection" we're doing pretty well.

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 6:31 PM

6580 sorry thought you were one of those extreme voluntarists who say they wouldn't use force no matter what.
Anonymous blogger

Posted: Sep 27 2010, 10:32 PM

207225 Violence will always exist in one form or another, whether the state exists or not. The question is would society's outcome in general be MORE violent than it is today in an anarchic system (especially when you discount state sponsored wars, police brutality, etc, from the equation)?

That continues to be an unproven assumption ( and perhaps a failure of imagination which statists have propagated to induce fear about "anarchy", which they neuro-linguistically have traditionally equated with "chaos").

Would the majority of people become "Mad Max" because there are no police around? I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it. Clearly, the state is the number one cause of death in the 20th century with over 100 million deaths. I doubt anarchy could compete with those numbers...

Posted: Sep 28 2010, 4:27 AM

124150 It depends on how you define "violence". If it means "unjustified force" then overthrowing the government with (even deadly) force isn't violence. Had the American Revolution led by philospher George Washington and his call for opposing the British Government via passive means, such as legal protests and use legal means to minimise their taxes including taking a vow of poverty, then the U.S. would hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games instead of India and singing "God Save the Queen".

Posted: Nov 09 2010, 5:29 PM

99230 Under any system of government there is the concept of common-wealth. The problem that arises immediately is who shall have the authority over the administration of the commonwealth. The are various system for determining to whom that power is given to, yet all forms of government share this need. If the trustees of the commonwealth are not trustworthy the people inevitably suffer.

The upside is that whatever the administrator of the state might happen to be titled, be it King, or President, or Prime Minister, they are mere mortals who can be replaced. And they need to be replaced by those who would guard the common wealth for the benefit of all.

To suggest anarchy would do away with the commonwealth and shift all ownership to those of private means. All public property would eventually be snatched up by those who would, by means of force.

Posted: Nov 19 2010, 1:20 AM

99240 See, this was over 200 years ago. Times have changed my friend, and you with them.

Posted: Nov 29 2010, 9:50 AM

8118 State is an instrument of political, economical and social domination of one class over the other. Government is a form that any state can take in the context of different historical political conditions. For example, the governments of the bourgeois ruling class can take the forms such as bourgeois republic, monarchy, theocracy, anarchy. Proletarian states also can take the same forms. Changing the form of a regime from one to the other does not means change of the state system. Ruling class must be changed.
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