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Abstraction of Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed

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Zerubbabel Posted: Sun, Mar 25 2012 12:15 PM


Hoppe asserts that while both monarchy and democracy are deficient political monopolies, monarchy is superior to democracy. He levels a critique against democracy with 5 specific points: 1- Stewardship 2- Temporality 3- Amorality of leaders. 4- Expropriation (or wealth distribution) 5- War, to what end. In my first thread I leveled these same 5 points against corporations, trying to show the similarity between the institutions of democracy and corporations.
Now I will try to apply these points to the individual and their relations, i.e. society. Hoppe’s salient feature is that of temporary steward (points 1&2). The expropriation and amorality points are simply contingencies of obtaining that stewardship position. The issue of war is complicated and a sidereal issue best left out, IMO. The salient abstract idea is that of temporary steward as distinct from an owner who is abiding, permanent and secure. I will judge the reality of individuals within our current society against this nonvirtuous idea of the temporary steward.   
A common experience of Americans is that they are geographically, economically, culturally mobile, i.e. changing and therefore temporary. Geographically we have long since rejected any abiding, permanent and secure connection to a piece of land, e.g. the family farm. According to the Census Bureau about 1 in 6 Americans move each year and the average American moves 11.7 times in a lifetime. In Hoppe’s analogy we are all virtually renters vs. owners. Real Estate professionals council the wise home owner not to install a swimming pool or anything unusual because it would not be realized at the sale of the property. IOW care for the property with the next owner in mind because the property, even if owned outright, is not abiding, permanent and secure. Even at best the property owner is a renter from the State which will reposes if the rent (taxes) is not paid.  
Economic mobility is usually portrayed as the virtue of upward mobility. It may well be that, but nonetheless constant change is a state of temporality where stability actually could mean going backwards as others go forward. One’s economic condition can change at any moment. According to the Bureau Labor Statistics  baby boomers held an average of 11 jobs from ages 18 to 44. At any moment the connectedness of the employee to the employer can be severed. The good steward would not let this effect his loyalties, but an employee’s thoughts can never drift far from the temporality of his condition. 
Culturally we have seen the breakdown of the family unit, where even family life has become temporary. “Till death do us part” is now meaningless as parting is almost inevitable. While the massive increase in personal debt could signify faith in a better future. It could also be as Hoppe writes: “an increase in the social rate of time preference (present-orientation).”  Just as the democratic politician has adopted the “get while the getting is good” ideal, so too has the individual acting as homo consmere (consuming man). By coincidence, the "buy now pay later" paradigm which fuels consumer debt serves the short-term interests of the manufacture and sale of consumer products.  
Geographically, economically and culturally the individual lives a life of temporality knowing that the standing order of things in his life could suddenly change. Divorce, layoff, economic crash, new job, new geographic place could cause a major paradigm shift in the individual’s life. Politics may be one of the more stable aspects of our life. In previous ages individuals may never have traveled more than 15 miles nor ever changed residence or job. One may judge our current paradigm as better, which it may well be, but nonetheless our current social paradigm is one of radical temporality.
Stewardship pervades our society. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 65% of all Americans are employed which means they function as stewards of other people’s property. The remaining 35% include the non-working young and old, the idle rich and poor (welfare recipients). The number of Americans who actually own the business for which they work, must be very small indeed. It is common for a professional individual to be a steward of a corporation (employee) and still posses property/capital (stocks) which he has invested in another corporation of which he has other stewards to care for it. In our society even the wealthy are seldom  caretaker of their own property as they rely on others in the overwhelming system of institutionalized stewardship we call wage earning or employment ... or simply jobs.  
Hoppe writes about theoretical propositions. I’m not sure if he includes the proposition that men prefer to own their own means of survival as opposed to acting as stewards of other people‘s property? But he does make a judgment against the abstract idea of the temporary steward. Or another way of putting it: Do men always prefer to avoid “The tragedy of the commons“? And as he has embodied this idea into democracy, he makes the theoretical propositions that “democracy (majority rule) and private property are incompatible.”  To whatever level my argument of similarity between the institution of democracy and corporate structure might be valid, so too would this proposition be. 
I have made the case that the temporary steward idea pervades our society and rules the lives of individuals. This calls into question the whole concept of private property. Home ownership and consumerism is widely flaunted as an increase in private property. But the one thing that is most important to individuals is that thing in which they pour out the greater part of their life energies; their work, their creativity, their craftsmanship their life as homo faber. In this respect there is very little private property in our society, either among the rich CEO or the poor laborer. Our means of production, our corporate structures which dominates the market, is not owned privately, but collectively. It is a form of economic socialism prophetically declared by Rockefeller: “The combination is here to stay. Individualism has gone, never to return.”  I would interpret that “individualism” is the individual ownership of the means of production, e.g. the small refinery owners he bought out to form Standard Oil. The only meaningful distinction between state socialism and corporate socialism is in what defines the “commons” in “The tragedy of the commons.“  While state socialism defines the common group as a mandate of every person with-in a geographic border; Corporate capitalism defines the common group through voluntary temporary relationships, often across geographic borders. 
Two current institutions are based on the explicit violation of private property rights. The Corporation presents the façade that stock ownership is shared ownership of the corporation. If this were true then any profits made by the corporation belong to the stockholders and not subject to the arbitrary will of corporate management. To not disperse all profits to the rightful owners is theft.
Capital is lent for the fee of usury. It is the use of the capital that has value deserving the usury, therefore the usury is the property of the owner of the capital. The banker who lends out depositor’s capital and keeps the usury for himself is a thief.  
That these two thieveries are foisted upon voluntary victims does not change what they are. The argument against these two violations of private property rights inevitably falls upon the ineffectiveness of the institutions were they to respect private property rights, not the unyielding adherence to the principle of private property rights.
What if the theoretical propositions does not hold true, that men do not necessarily prefer to own their own means of survival as opposed to surviving as stewards of other people‘s property? Put another way they are not repulsed by The tragedy of finding their survival on the commons. How does this effect the critique of Communism from the stand point of private property rights? Does this demand a distinction between the private property of homo consumere (home, auto, etc) vs. homo faber (industry, business, farm, etc)? IOW we want to own our own home and consumer goods but willingly go to work without any ownership in the means of survival, relying instead on one group or another, one common or another. In yet other words still, do men want to own toys but not tools?
What if the theoretical propositions holds true that men do prefer to own their own means of survival as opposed to selling their services as stewards; that they passionately eschew the tragedy of the commons ... then we have the wildly ironic situation in Western Civilization, where we have created a culture that is nearly void of personal property in the individual’s work life -that 9 to 5 life spent entirely in the corporate commons- and we have done so entirely through voluntary exchange.    
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Bert replied on Sun, Mar 25 2012 12:31 PM

Interesting, I liked the first part of what you posted, then I hit this:

In our society even the wealthy are seldom caretaker of their own property as they rely on others in the overwhelming system of institutionalized stewardship we call wage earning or employment ... or simply jobs.

It's not that the boss or owner of a business is not the caretaker, but one takes interest in working for a business and invests his time and labor into the business or company, which goes beyond that of a steward who's role is mere caretaker that may have no long term investment.  The employee is contracted and paid for his work by the boss or owner who's looking to possibly expand their "property" (in a financial sense), which is beneficial to the worker (as the worker looks to expand their income).  I don't see how this would be institutionalized stewardship unlike the state.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Zerubbabel replied on Sun, Mar 25 2012 12:49 PM

Thanks Bert. My point in that section you quoted is that seldom is the boss the owner nor the owner the boss. This is necessary because usually the owner is a collective.  

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