Decline and fall has been the fate of all human societies since the dawn of recorded history. The cause is the fundamental human need for security, which is met with a supply of political coercion.
Such coercion causes the failure of a society by destroying the incentive to produce to the point where production of even the most basic necessities of food and shelter falls below the subsistence level.
The tribal chiefs and witch doctors of early societies and their more recent political equivalents all have wielded force and fraud to rule. The principal difference between the tribal chief of the past and today’s political rulers is the destructive technology at the disposal of the contemporary political ruler.
In 1776 there was a true revolution in human understanding, when Americans rejected the concept of monarchy. However, the end of monarchies around the world did not end political tyranny, as subsequent political tyrannies arose.
Tyranny is not the absence of freedom. To the contrary, freedom consists of the elimination of tyranny.
The appeal of communism is its promise of security through economic equality. This concept fails because it violates a law of nature—the first law of thermodynamics—that says, in effect, you can’t get something for nothing. In the physical sciences the principle of Least Action says that all physical phenomena operate so as to minimize the total amount of energy expended over a period of time.
The human action analog of the Least Action Principle is manifested by the desire to get the most with the least effort. Innovation as in the invention of labor-saving tools is a positive application of the Least Action Principle in human conduct. Trying to get something for nothing is the negative manifestation of the Least Action Principle in human action.
The United States of America is an example of the power of a modicum of freedom to engender prosperity. In just 135 years after 1776 the U.S. population grew from three million people to 92 million while the American standard of living increased to the highest in the world. However, the U.S. has never been totally free of political coercion.
This book posits that the true path to freedom is by creating a society based on the sanctity of human property protected by exclusively moral and rational means. At first it may sound Utopian to claim that it is possible to build a society based on morality and rationality. However, in order to build such a society it is not necessary for people to be rational and moral all the time or part of the time, just as in order to use a computer it is not necessary to understand the science and technology upon which computing is based.
THE BEGINNING OF WAR AND SLAVERY
All of human civilization to this point is epitomized by Edward Gibbon’s great book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1789). Decline and fall has been the fate of all human societies since the dawn of recorded history. The cause is the fundamental human need for security.
Security is the lowest form of happiness, consisting of the minimum of food, clothing and shelter necessary for survival and subsistence.
Until the past three hundred years most of the people in every culture existed at the minimum subsistence level. Even today a large part of the world population lives at minimum subsistence level—throughout Africa, and much of Asia, Latin America, and parts of eastern Europe and Russia.
In the era when people lived in tribes—some still do in Africa and Asia—a strong man would become the tribal chief. In exchange for protection from other tribes and wrongdoers within the tribe itself, the chief received tribute, a precursor to taxation. Later barons, dukes, kings, and emperors became the equivalent of a tribal chief ruling over a larger population and a larger geographical area.
The tribal chief had an ally in the witch doctor, a precursor to organized religion. The witch doctor introduced fraud to assist the ruler, by convincing the people that it was in their best interests to yield to the coercion of the tribal chief, because he was a god, or of divine descent sent by the gods to rule the people. In more recent times, the doctrine of the divine right of kings was a manifestation of the witch doctor and tribal chief alliance.
In a BBC television documentary and companion book of 1973, The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski traces the beginning of war to the development of agriculture starting ten thousand years ago, after the end of the last Ice Age. With agriculture, humans first learned to create a surplus of food capable of being stored. This surplus attracted the nomadic warrior, whom he describes as a “. . . predator posing as a hero [who] . . . can only feed on the labors of other men.” 1
Galambos’ view of political rulers as the equivalent of tribal chiefs and witch doctors, and of the state as an institution of theft and war is in accordance with the following comments from the prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) by Jared Diamond. 2
“Once food can be stockpiled [in an agricultural society] a political elite can gain control of food produced by others, assert the right of taxation, escape the need to feed itself, and engage in full-time political activities. Hence . . . agricultural societies . . . organized in chiefdoms . . . and kingdoms are . . . able to mount a sustained war of conquest. . . A stored food surplus built up by taxation can . . . be used to feed professional soldiers. . . Stored food can also feed priests, who provide religious justification for wars of conquest . . .” 3
Professor Diamond continues, “[C]hiefdoms introduced the dilemma fundamental to all centrally governed, nonegalitarian societies. [They can] function . . . as kleptocracies, transferring . . . wealth from commoners to upper classes. . . [Then it becomes] a matter of just how large a percentage of the tribute extracted from producers is retained by the elite. But why would people tolerate the transfer of the hard earned fruits of their labor to kleptocrats? Diamond explains that kleptocrats throughout the ages have resorted to a mixture of four solutions:
1. Disarm the populace, and arm the elite. . .
2. Redistribute much of the tribute received, in popular ways . . .
3. Use the monopoly of force to promote happiness, by maintaining public order and curbing violence. . .
4. [C]onstruct an ideology or religion justifying kleptocracy. . . [Typically] chiefs [have asserted] divinity, divine descent, or at least a hotline to the gods. . . The chief may either combine the offices of political leader and priest in a single person, or may support a separate group of kleptocrats (that is, priests) whose function is to provide ideological justification for the chiefs.” 4
As noted by Diamond farmers became the subjects of kleptocratic chiefs, who used the wealth they controlled to wage wars. So, after being victims of theft by nomadic tribes as Jacob Bronowski observed, 5 the farmers became victims of theft by their own rulers who used property stolen from their subjects to wage wars of conquest, i.e., theft campaigns against other people.
Galambos showed that tribal chiefs, kings, and modern political rulers all wield force to coerce men to do their bidding; and that the principal difference between the tribal chief as ruler and the head of a modern political state is the technology available for use of force. The weapons of the tribal chief and his warriors were spears and swords, while the modern political ruler has at his disposal the destructive weaponry—from guns to nuclear bombs—made available by the advance of science and technology.
A KEY TO HUMAN HAPPINESS
In 1776 there was a true revolution in human understanding, when Americans rejected the concept of rule by the king of England, or by any king. This American revolution led to the discrediting of the concept of monarchy throughout the world. 6
However, ending monarchy did not end political tyranny, as subsequent political tyrannies arose, based on the supposed will of the people.
Tyranny is not the absence of freedom. To the contrary, freedom consists of the elimination of tyranny. This is a distinction with a significant and important meaning: freedom is not achieved by getting a rid of a tyrant, as a new tyranny surely will arise, as has always occurred in the past after tyrants were deposed. Russia is as good an example as any. The tyranny of the monarchy in Czarist Russia was overthrown and followed by the tyranny of the Bolshevik communists, who lost power when everyone in Russia, including communist politicians, realized fully that Russian communism had suppressed the ability of the Russian people to produce a minimum subsistence level of production. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was replaced by what has become a fascist dictatorship ruled by a consortium of political and business oligarchs headed by a former operative of the KGB, the principal organ of suppression of freedom. Russia now has a new version of the KGB, known as the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (acronym FSB).
Freedom will be achieved on a permanent basis only by ridding society of coercion. Freedom is totally (100%) incompatible with any form of coercion, including the decision of the majority in a political state to impose military conscription for war and taxation imposed to finance war.
The sharpest example of the contrast between ideas about tyranny and freedom in modern times is found in the following statements of Karl Marx and Andrew Galambos:
“The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”—Karl Marx
“Freedom is the societal condition that exists when every individual has full (i.e. 100%) control over his own property.”—Andrew J. Galambos
Where that idea–the abolition of property–has been applied most rigorously the result has been virtually to eliminate human happiness. A few leading examples, selected from a longer list that could be given include Russia and its empire of more than a dozen non-Russian societies under the former Soviet Union, China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party from 1949 until the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, and North Korea from the end of World War II through the rule of the the North Korean Communist Party under Kim Jong Un (born 1983). 7
IF IT VIOLATES A LAW OF NATURE, IT WON’T WORK
Galambos wisely observed that human conduct is as much ruled by the laws of nature as are inanimate objects and phenomena and, therefore, that it is ultimately futile and self-defeating for humans to attempt to govern their interaction by conduct inconsistent with the laws of nature.
The appeal of communism is its promise of security through economic equality—by taking property from those with more to give to those with less. This does not work to benefit the many in the long run because it violates a law of nature—the first law of thermodynamics—that applies to human action as well as it does to inanimate phenomena.
The first law of thermodynamics says, in effect, that you can’t get something for nothing, i.e., energy cannot be created from nothing or reduced to nothing. An analogous statement in economics is that there is no such thing as free lunch. I.e., the lunch may be provided free of charge, but someone has to make the lunch.
In the physical sciences there is a principle, known as the Least Action Principle that says, in effect, all physical phenomena operate so as to minimize the expenditure of energy over time. For example, water flowing from mountains down to the sea does not travel in a straight line, but rather in a circuitous route that allows the water always to flow downhill, and never uphill, because that would require the expenditure of greater energy.
Two other examples of Least Action in physics are found in gravitation and in light. It takes less energy to propel a man-made satellite into an elliptical orbit of the earth than into a circular orbit of earth, a specific example of the general case illustrated by the elliptical orbits of planets around the sun. Because a circular orbit is needed for man-made satellites, rocket scientists and engineers must take into account the greater energy required to put a satellite into circular orbit.
The Least Action Principle operates in the travel of light. The path of light is usually in a straight line. However, light from a distant star, as seen from earth, will bend in towards the sun as it comes within the sun’s gravitational pull, because it takes less energy for the starlight to bend in toward the sun rather than continuing in a straight line. This phenomena was first observed in famous observations in 1919 which corroborated Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
In human action the Least Action Principle is manifested by the desire to get the most with the least action or effort. There is both a positive and negative manifestation of the Least Action Principle in human affairs.
Innovation as in the invention of tools is a positive application of the Least Action Principle in human action. Every labor saving innovation demonstrates human desire to get more done with less action or effort. Examples range from the most primitive stone-age knife, to the plow, wheel and axle of thousands of years ago to modern household appliances such as machines to wash and dry clothing and dishes.
Trying to get something for nothing is the negative manifestation of the Least Action Principle in human action. Politicians specialize in offering something for nothing as illustrated by the observation of George Bernard Shaw that “A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul.”
Socialism in action produces poverty for everybody but the political elite, as demonstrated in the former Soviet Union from 1918 to 1991. The privileges of the communist elite in Russia were satirized by George Orwell in his book Animal Farm (1945), which includes the famous maxim of the ruling pigs on the farm that “all Animals are Equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The demise of the Soviet Union also exemplifies how coercion causes the failure of a society by destroying the incentive to produce to the point where production of even the most basic necessities of food and shelter fall below the subsistence level.
The North Korean communist state caused a famine in the 1990s in which four million people–20% of the population–died of starvation. In consequence of virtually permanent malnutrition, the current generation of 18-year old North Korean males is five inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts. This tragedy of malnutrition and starvation was caused by tyrannical enforcement of policies designed to impose collectivist, communist ideology on the people of North Korea.
In the takeover of China in 1947-1949, land “reform” by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) became a reign of terror in which the most productive peasant-farmers, nearly one million people in all, were killed in a village by village campaign whose purpose was not redistribution of the land from “landlords” to landless peasants, but to impress everyone with the fatal consequences of being labeled “an enemy of the people” for failure to do the bidding of the CCP cadres who ruled the countryside.
Once in power, after 1949 the CCP outlawed private ownership of land and forced all Chinese peasants into agricultural communes where positive incentives for productive work were virtually nil. In a program called “The Great Leap Forward,” initiated in 1958, the CCP forcibly transferred millions of peasants from agriculture into work on steel production. Agricultural production plummeted, but no useful steel was produced. CCP officials also mandated counterproductive new methods of planting that wasted the seeds and the labor of the peasants. By the time the CCP abandoned the “Great Leap Forward” in 1962, 43 million Chinese had died of starvation. The purpose of the Great Leap Forward was the goal of Mao Zedong to extract food from the Chinese peasants to trade with Soviet Russia for military equipment which Mao intended to use in launching attacks on both Japan and the United States. 8
ARE YOU A SLAVE?
Coercion in communist and fascist dictatorships does more than create poverty. It enslaves the people of countries so unfortunate as to be ruled by a state with absolute power over its citizens. In the fascist dictatorship of Adolf Hitler in Germany of the 1930s, every person was subject to political laws and rules that made individuals mere cogs in a machine being built to wage all-out war in the pursuit of Hitler’s goals of conquest. Journalist and historian William L. Shirer described the virtual servitude of the German people under Nazi dictatorship. In Shirer’s book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959), there is an entire chapter on the subjugation of the German people under Nazi rule. 9
A multitude of books describe the enslavement of peoples under communist dictatorships in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Russia. Perhaps the most extreme example of enslavement was the Russian peasants working on state owned farms. They worked for a bare subsistence and were forbidden to leave the village where they lived without permission of local officials of the communist party. In all the communist countries people were forbidden to leave the country without permission of the state, which was rarely granted.
Galambos and Snelson contended that even in a political democracy such as the United States, people are enslaved. How so? By taxation. They argue that taxation forces the taxpayer to work in order to produce the wealth represented by the money the state takes through taxation. On a small scale that is how a common thief enslaves his victim–by coercive actions that have the effect of making one person work for another against his will and without his consent. By stealing an automobile, for example, a thief enslaves the owner to the extent of the time it takes the owner to work to earn enough money to replace the stolen automobile.
The United States of America is an example of the power of a modicum of freedom to engender prosperity. In just 135 years or so after 1776 the U.S. population grew from three million people living primarily along the Atlantic coast to 92 million occupying a vast territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific while the American standard of living increased to among the highest, if not the highest in the world.
In 1776 America had a low population density while before it lay a vast, resource-rich, sparsely populated continent. Low population and vast resources were not the cause of America’s ascendance. Rather, American success was due to the relative freedom of people in America to make the most of life with the minimum political coercion. Other countries with large space and immense resources have remained poor as exemplified, yet again, by the Soviet Union. And among the richest people in the world are residents of Switzerland, a small country with minimal natural resources. In Asia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan have become prosperous with minimal natural resources.
The U.S. has never been totally free of political coercion. It has been a political democracy or republic for its entire history. In the United States of America ever since the introduction of the income tax and estate taxes in 1913, the most productive people increasingly have been robbed the most by kleptocracy; and the least productive people are rewarded the most by being awarded property at the expense of those who produced it.
THE WAY TO FREEDOM, PEACE, AND PROSPERITY
The aim of this book is to show that the benefits of even the modicum of freedom in the U.S. could be magnified greatly by evolution to a natural republic, one based on total sanctity of property, including individual man’s life, thoughts, ideas, and actions as well as tangible property and money that is derivative of man’s life.
At first it may sound Utopian to claim that it is possible to build a totally free society, one with no tolerance for coercion of any kind, political or otherwise. Morality—in the Golden Rule sense—is the principal postulate for the free society advocated in this book. However, as Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) observed any social structure that depends upon all people being moral and rational is doomed to failure.
Spinoza was right, but only insofar as it is true that consistent and total morality and rationality cannot be expected from human beings. However, in order to build a totally free, secure and prosperous society it is not necessary for everyone, or even a majority, or even a large minority of people to be rational and moral all of the time or even part of the time. That is because freedom is a product—a product of human innovation and ingenuity. Just how that product—freedom—can be built piece by piece and bit by bit will be elucidated later in this book. For a glimpse into the process of building any desirable product, consider the personal computer and television. It is not necessary to the use and enjoyment of personal computers and television receivers that people who own them understand the science and technology upon which they are based.
Here we must acknowledge that the great free market economist Ludwig von Mises posited that most people act rationally most of the time, first, implicitly in identifying their personal goals and objectives, and second, in deciding upon means of achieving these goals and objectives. 10
As services and products to protect property and freedom become more and more available, their desirability will become more and more obvious and the services of the political state will appear less and less desirable.
This is a process that is already well under way in America, for example, in protection of persons and property and in school education. It seems highly probable that as the political state fails, private security will become gradually an increasingly desirable service, and a very large industry. This is happening already. In America, private security companies now employ three times as many security personnel as all the federal and state police combined. Specifically, early in the second decade of the 21st century in America the number of private security personnel is approximately two million, compared to about 700,000 total police officers at all levels of the state, from federal officers down to local police.
At first consideration it may seem highly unlikely that private security would replace state police. However, in America private security is already providing service to businesses and individuals for whom the state police are not a protection. That is why private security is already in place in most large office buildings, large industrial facilities, retail shopping centers, and in many large multi-unit residential developments. Private security is also seen in country clubs and gated communities all over America. In more dangerous places around the world, such as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Brazil and other cities in Latin America, individuals who can afford private security view it as a necessity. At present, in America, the number of private security personnel is approximately two million, compared to about 700,000 total police officers at all levels of the state, from federal officers down to local police.
In schooling, which is not really the same as education, a position we will explore in a forthcoming chapter entitled “Education,” public schools in general have a poor record of imparting the basic skills to perform adequately and reliably in the world of work, or in educating adequately those students who aspire to higher education. Over 50% of incoming college freshmen are not qualified to do college level work and 30% of college freshmen drop out of college after the first year. Given so much dysfunction in the public schools it is no wonder that 17% of America’s 35 million school age children (grades one through twelve) are in private school with another 3% doing home schooling. 11 Parents of such children incur the costs of private education despite paying taxes for public schools.
In chapter 1 of this book, entitled “Replacements for the Political State,” there are set forth other examples of the evolution of private and voluntary action to supplant services provided poorly by the political state. 12
- The Ascent of Man, Chapter 2, “The Harvest of the Seasons,” pages 59, 86. ↩
- Jared Diamond is a Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. ↩
- Chapter 4, “Farmer Power” at page 90. ↩
- From chapter 14, “From Egalitarianism to Kleptocracy,” pages 276-278. ↩
- In Ascent of Man cited above ↩
- This topic is a principal subject of chapter 7 of this book, entitled “From Galileo and Newton to Communication at the Speed of Light,”http://www.capitalismtheliberalrevolution.com/chapter/from-galileo-and-newton-to-communication-at-the-speed-of-light/ ↩
- For North Korea see Demick, Barbara, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2010); for China under Mao Zedong see Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story (2005); for the Soviet Union see, Simis, Konstantin, USSR: The Corrupt Society (1982). It would require a small library to hold just the books about the misery of life under Communist totalitarian rule in the 20th century and beyond. ↩
- The failure of, and misery created by, the “Great Leap Forward” are well documented. Two sources are Mao: The Unknown Story (2005), chapter 40, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday; and East Asia: Tradition & Transformation (Revised edition 1989), pages 954-957, by John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer, and Albert M. Craig ↩
- Chapter 8, Life in the Third Reich: 1933-1937 ↩
- This observation of Mises runs through two of his landmark treatises, Human Action (1949), an English language version of a work published previously in German, and Theory and History (1957). ↩
- Sources for the numbers stated in this sentence and additional information about the subject will be provided in the chapter on education. ↩
- Please go to this chapter at http://www.capitalismtheliberalrevolution.com/chapter/replacements-for-the-political-state/ ↩