Democracy: The God That Failed
Democracy: The God That Failed is a book by German-American economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, first published in 2001, that is axiomatic deductive in style. The main theme of the book is an analysis of the effects of democracy on society, while also comparing and contrasting democracy to other forms of social and political organization such as monarchical or Hoppe's concept of natural order. More specifically the book presesnts a number of arguments that essentially lead to the conclusion that democracy has not furthered freedom, prosperity, and overall societal advancement in the manner and to the degree which so many have come to believe.
One of the main concepts central to Hoppe’s arguments concerning the strength, or rather weakness of democracy is the idea of time preference. Time preference can be seen as the degree by which an individual prefers a good in the present over the exact same good in the future. Hoppe argues that in general an advancing society will see a decline in time preference towards zero (but never reaching zero), because as individuals become wealthier they will require a lower portion of their wealth to satisfy present needs and thus have a higher supply to dedicate to future needs. Or in other words, as society advances on average individuals will have a higher savings rate. This tendency of a fall in the time preference rate will continue to proceed as Hoppe states “so long as no one interferes with another's acts of nature appropriation and production”. This leads to one of the first arguments in the book against democratic governments which in fact can be applied to all forms of government. Hoppe argues that government interference in private individuals’ lives (be it a monarchical or democratic government) only leads to an increase in an individual's time preference rate. Or in other words a decline in the savings rate and thus degradation or slowing of economic advancement. The primary reason for this is that governments greatly increase the uncertainty in people's lives. Uncertainty, of the type created by governments, leads to an increase in time preference as individuals no longer know what proportion of their wealth they will be able to keep in the future because governments are constantly changing rates of taxation, inflation, and regulation.
Another one of the arguments Hoppe uses to support his claims against democracy are the problems that arise when as is the case with democratic governments, the leader(s) of the government are not the owners of government resources but rather the caretaker. This creates the motivation for the leader(s) to use them to the greatest extent possible in their given term as after they are out of office they will no longer have access to them. This is contrasted to monarchy where the king, queen, emperor, etc., is in fact the owner of the resources and therefore will be more motivated to maintain and maximize government wealth over an extended period of time and less likely to squander resources to the same extent.
While Hoppe does emphasize some of the benefits of monarchy over democracy, he does not advocate either as very desirable, rather he stresses that the superior order to them both is the idea of natural order:
A positive alternative to monarchy and democracy is the idea of natural order. On the one hand, this involves the recognition that it is not exploitation, either monarchical or democratic, but private property, production, and voluntary exchange that are the ultimate source of human civilization.
- —Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed
- Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. "Democracy: The God that Failed", 2001, page 9.