Are You a Cultural ‘Neanderthal’?
On Democracy, De-Civilization, and the Quest for a New Counterculture
Speech to the 2015 Conference of the Property and Freedom Society
Because every action requires the employment of specific physical means – a body, standing room, external objects – a conflict between different actors must arise, whenever two actors try to use the same physical means for the attainment of different purposes. The source of conflict is always and invariably the same: the scarcity or rivalrous-ness of physical means. Two actors cannot at the same time use the same physical means – the same bodies, spaces and objects – for alternative purposes. If they try to do so, they must clash. Therefore, in order to avoid conflict or resolve it if it occurs, an action-able principle and criterion of justice or law is required, i.e., a principle regulating the just, lawful or “proper” vs. the unjust, unlawful or “improper” use and control (ownership) of scarce physical means.
Logically, what is required to avoid all conflict is clear: It is only necessary that every good be always and at all times owned privately, i.e., controlled exclusively by some specified individual (or individual partnership or association), and that it be always recognizable which gooddesire for the property of others. Only with democracy, however, i.e., the free and unrestricted entry into the State, are all moral restraints and inhibitions against the taking of others’ lawful property removed. Everyone is free to indulge in such temptations and propose and promote every conceivable measure of legislation and taxation to gain advantages at other people’s expense. That is, whereas in a natural order everyone is expected to spend his time exclusively on production or consumption, under democratic conditions, increasingly more time is spent instead on politics, i.e., on the advocacy and promotion of activities that are neither productive nor consumptive, but exploitative and parasitic of and on the property of others. Indeed, even the opponents of such a development must waste their time increasingly on unproductive endeavors, i.e., on politics, if only to defend themselves and their property or take precautionary actions against such incursions. In fact, under democratic conditions, a new class of people emerges – politicians – whose profession it is to propose and promote law-decrees and taxes designed to expropriate the property of some to the advantage of others (including and foremost themselves).
Moreover, owing to regularly recurring elections, the politicization of society never comes to an end but is constantly reignited and continued. Legal uncertainty or lawlessness is thus heightened and social time preferences will rise still further, i.e., increasingly shortening the time horizon taken into consideration in one’s action-plans. And in the process of political competition, i.e., in the competition for the position of ultimate decision-maker, such politicians and political parties will rise to the top who have the least moral scruples and the best skills as demagogues, i.e., of proposing and propagating the most popular assortment of immoral and unlawful demands from a near limitless supply of such demands on offer in public opinion.
On the other hand – as the other side of the same coin – democracy will lead to increasing corruption. With open entry into the State, the resistance against State-rule is reduced and the size of the State will grow. The number of State employees and administrators will increase, and because their income and livelihood is dependent on the continuation of the State’s power of legislation and taxation, they will, not necessarily, but in all likelihood, become reliable and loyal supporters of the State. In particular, the class of intellectuals, i.e., the producers of words (word-smiths) in contrast to the producers of things (manufacturers), will be thus bought off and corrupted. Because there is only little and fickle market demand for words rather than things, intellectuals are always desperate for any help they can get to stay afloat, and the State, in permanent need of ideological support for its relentless onslaught against natural law and justice, is only too willing to offer such help and employ them as public educators in exchange for the appropriate propaganda.
Yet it is not only State employees that are so corrupted. Tax-revenue and the State’s range of control over other, non-monetary assets and holdings will far exceed what is necessary to employ and equip its workers. The State can also disperse income and assistance to various members of civil society. The loyalty of the poor and downtrodden can be assured through so-called social welfare programs, and the rich and the captains of banking and industry, and indirectly also their employees, can be corrupted through government privileges, contracts, and interest bearing governments bonds. And this same policy can be used also for the purpose of “dividing” the members of civil society, so as to more easily control an increasingly factionalized or “atomized” population. Divide et impera!
While the principal direction of social evolution can be safely predicted based on a few elementary assumptions about the nature of man, the State, and of democracy in particular, all details concerning the process of de-civilization remain uncertain and unclear. To be more specific, history must be consulted. In particular, about the last hundred years must be looked at, i.e., the history since the end of WWI in 1918, when modern democracy came into its own displacing the former monarchical State.
While this history confirms the general prediction, the actual results are truly horrendous, surpassing the worst fears. As far as moral degeneration and corruption is concerned, and taking only the US as the dominant example and model of a democratic State into consideration, a few indicators may suffice as illustration.
In the US, a Code of Federal Regulations – a document listing all government rules and regulations – did not exist at the beginning of the period (until 1937). By 1960, the Code had reached 22,877 pages, and by 2012 it had swollen to a total of 174,545 pages, subdivided into 50 titles, regulating in minutest detail of everything imaginable, from agriculture and aeronautics to transportation, wildlife and fisheries. Whereas natural law is comprised of only three principles: self-ownership, original appropriation, and contractual property transfer from a prior to a later owner, then, today, after a hundred years of democracy, no aspect of production and consumption is left free and unregulated. As well, at the beginning of the period no more than a handful of “federal crimes” existed, concerning matters such as “treason” or the “bribery of federal officials” (while all “normal” crimes were defined and prosecuted by the individual States). By 1980 the number of “federal crimes” had already grown to about 3,000, and by 2007 it had reached 4,450, criminalizing not just ever more non-tortious actions and victimless crimes but increasingly also motives, thoughts, words and speech.
As a second indicator for the degree of corruption it is revealing to contrast the total population number with the number of State-dependents. Presently, the total population of the US is about 320 million, or about 260 million, if we subtract the number of people below age 18 and ineligible to vote. By contrast, the number of people wholly or mostly dependent for their livelihood on State-funding includes the following: The number of State-employees (of all levels of governments) is about 22 million. 46 million people receive “food stamps.” 66 million people are “Social Security” recipients. 8 million people receive “unemployment insurance.” Federal government spending alone on for-profit firms amounts to some $500 billion, accounting according to an estimate by Charles Murray for about 22% of the American workforce or about 36 million people. Lastly, non-profit organizations and NGOs, with annual revenues of $2 trillion and almost 12 million employees, receive about a third of their funding from government, accounting for about another 3 million dependents – thus bringing the total of State-dependents to about 181 million people. That is, only 79 million people or about one third of the adult (above 18) US population of 260 million (or about 25 percent of the total population of 320 million) can be said to be financially wholly or largely independent of the State, whereas close to 70 percent of the US adult population and 57 percent of the total population are to be counted as State-dependents.
Finally, as a third indicator of moral degeneration and corruption, a look at the top of the democratic State-system is instructive: at the politicians and political parties who run and direct the democratic show. In this regard, whether we look at the US or any of its satellite States in Europe and all around the globe, the picture is equally unambiguous and clear – and equally bleak. If measured by the standards of natural law and justice, all politicians, of all parties and virtually without any exception, are guilty, whether directly or indirectly, of murder, homicide, trespass, invasion, expropriation, theft, fraud, and the fencing of stolen goods on a massive and ongoing scale. And every new generation of politicians and parties appears to be worse, and piles even more atrocities and perversions on top of the already existing mountain, so that one feels almost nostalgic about the past.
They all should be hung, or put in jail to rot, or set to making compensation.
But: Instead, they parade around in public and broad daylight and proclaim themselves – pompously, pretentiously, arrogantly and self-righteously – as saintly do-gooders: as good Samaritans, selfless public servants, benefactors, and saviors of mankind and human civilization. Assisted by a hired intelligentsia, they tell the public in endless loops and variations that as in Alice’s wonderland nothing is what it seems:
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
And it is the politicians, who are the masters, and who stipulate that aggression, invasion, murder and war are actually self-defense, whereas self-defense is aggression, invasion, murder and war. Freedom is coercion, and coercion is freedom. Saving and investment are consumption, and consumption is saving and investment. Money is paper, and paper is money. Taxes are voluntary payments, and voluntarily paid prices are exploitative taxes. Contracts are no contracts, and no contracts are contracts. Producers are parasites, and parasites are producers. Expropriation is restitution, and restitution is expropriation. Indeed, what we can see, hear or otherwise sense does not exist, and that which we cannot see, hear or otherwise sense does. The normal is a-normal and the a-normal normal. Black is white and white is black. Male is female and female male, etc..
Worse, the overwhelming majority of the public, far exceeding even the number of State-dependents, falls for this nonsense. Politicians are not despised and ridiculed but held in high esteem, applauded, admired, and even glorified by the masses. In their presence, and in particular vis-à-vis “top” politicians, most people show themselves awestruck, submissive and servile. Indeed, even those opposing or denouncing one particular politician or party do so almost always only to propose or hail yet another, different but equally absurd and confused politician or party. And the intelligentsia, finding its own verbal mumbo-jumbo echoed in the blabbering of this or that politician or political party, virtually drools over them.
And on the other hand: The number of those who still hold on to the principles of natural law and justice as the basis of all moral judgment, and who assess the contemporary world accordingly as an “Absurdistan,” i.e., an insane asylum run by crazed megalomaniacs, makes up no more today than a minuscule minority of the population, smaller in size even than the infamous 1% of the “super rich” of leftists’ fame (and with little if any overlap with this latter group). And tinier still is the minority of those, who recognize also, however vaguely, the systematic cause of this outcome. And all of these – the few sane people left within the asylum –, then, are under constant threat by the guardians and wardens of this “Absurdistan” called democracy, and are branded as Neanderthals, reactionaries, extremists, pre-enlightenment dumb-dumbs, sociopaths or scum.
Which brings me to the Property and Freedom Society (PFS). Because it purposefully assembles precisely such outcast Neanderthals: people who can see through the “Schmierentheater” (fleapit) going on before their eyes, who have had it with all blathering politicians and mass-media darlings, and who have consequently just one wish: to exit, i.e., to opt out of the legal system imposed on them by the democratic State.
But wherever these Neanderthals happen to reside, they find themselves in the same predicament: the exit is barricaded or entirely barred. Secession from the State’s territory is not permitted. One may emigrate from one country to another and thus leave one State-jurisdiction A for another jurisdiction B. But one’s immovable property remains thereby subject to the jurisdiction of A, also and especially in the case of sale, and likewise remains the transfer of all moveable property subject to A’s jurisdiction. That is, no one, anywhere, can exit with his property left intact, whether in staying or moving elsewhere. And not only is secession prohibited and considered treasonous by politicians, but it is viewed as illegitimate, as shirking one’s duties, also by the overwhelming bulk of the ‘educated’ or rather brainwashed public. Thus, matters appear hopeless for Neanderthals.
The PFS cannot offer a way out of this predicament, of course. Its gatherings, too, must take place on the ground and are as such subject to State-law and jurisdiction. It cannot even be taken for granted that meetings such as ours will be always and everywhere permitted to take place. PFS meetings can offer no more, then, than a brief escape and reprieve from our real life as inmates of an insane asylum, if not on the ground then at least in the virtual reality of ideas, thought and argument.
But, of course, these meetings have a real purpose. They want to accomplish a change in the world of things. At the very minimum, they want to prevent the Neanderthal culture, i.e., the culture of natural law, order and justice, from going entirely extinct. They want to help sustain and provide intellectual nourishment for this increasingly rare species of people and culture.
More ambitiously, however, the PFS wants to help these Neanderthals and their culture regain strength in public opinion by putting them on open display and showcasing them as a uniquely attractive and fascinating species and counterculture.
To achieve this goal, the PFS, seemingly paradoxically, engages in a policy of strict discrimination, i.e., of exclusion and inclusion. Thus, on the one hand, the PFS systematically excludes and discriminates against all representatives and promoters of the present, dominant democratic State-culture: against all professional politicians, State-judges, -prosecutors, -jailers, -killers, -tax-collectors, and -bankers, all warmongers, and all advocates of socialism, legal positivism, moral relativism and egalitarianism, whether of “outcome” or “opportunity.” On the other hand, positively, the PFS seeks out and admits only people, who have adopted for themselves Thomas Jefferson’s dictum that “There is not a truth existing which I fear… or would wish unknown to the whole world,” who accordingly know of no intellectual “taboo” and of no “political correctness,” and who are committed instead to uncompromising intellectual radicalism, willing to follow the dictates of reason wherever these may lead. More specifically, the PFS seeks out and admits only people dedicated to the recognition of justly acquired private property and property rights, freedom of contract, freedom of association and of dis-association, free trade, and peace.
Following this strict policy of discrimination the PFS, after ten years of its existence, has established itself as a veritable monopoly in the world of intellectual societies: a society made up of exceptional individuals of all ages, intellectual and professional backgrounds and nations, free and unpolluted by all Statists and everything statist, unrivalled in the interdisciplinary breadth and depth of its radicalism, gathered in beautiful surroundings and united in a spirit of conviviality and comradeship; a society smeared, despised and even hated (and yet secretly envied) by all the usual suspects, and yet hailed by all those who have had the wisdom and fortune to see and experience it.
Unlike other, ‘regular’ monopolies, however, it is not my goal to preserve and maintain the PFS’s current monopoly position. Quite to the contrary. In setting an example, by producing an appealing and indeed beautiful product – a privately produced public good, if you will – it is my hope that the PFS’s present monopoly position will only be a temporary one, and that its example will serve as an inspiration to others, that more and more similar associations and meetings will spring up, that the dominant democratic un-culture will thus be put increasingly on the defensive and opened up to public ridicule, and that ultimately they, the proponents and exponents of the reigning democratic un-culture, will be considered outcasts in polite society.
There are some positive signs: the one-day Mises-Circle events across major US-cities, Rahim Taghizadegan’s Wertewirtschaft gatherings in Austria and Andre Lichtschlag’s Eigentuemlich-Frei conferences in Germany. However, I am afraid that to match the accomplishment of the PFS will be a difficult task and that it is to maintain its unique status for quite a while. Personally, I am planning to continue this project as long as my and especially also Gulçin’s strength holds up and, even more importantly, as long as you keep coming and effectively supporting the intellectual product and enterprise that is the PFS.