A Short History of Man: Progress and Decline

By Andy Duncan

This excellent short book by Hans-Hermann Hoppe is perhaps one of his most under-appreciated works. Whereas ‘Democracy, The God That Failed’ has all the socialist enemy fighters closing in on full alert, this one sneaks stealthily under their shoddy radar.

What it basically details is how humans evolved in the last couple of hundred thousand years, particularly in the harsh glacial ‘ice age’ conditions, to later develop modern technologies, languages, and cultures, and particularly those ideas pertaining to liberty, property, and freedom. It then heads through to the industrial revolution and also the accompanying debasement of natural aristocracy into the poisoned fruit of democracy. In short, it is the evolutionary story of how human civilisation got distilled out of a primate inheritance.

As we‘re currently all living inside a warm inter-glacial period, which will almost certainly plunge back into a much longer glacial ‘ice age’ at some point, we may once again get subjected to a massive evolutionary winnowing, which will once again test our genetic fitness for survival.

And of course, it was ‘common knowledge’ 30 years ago that we are lucky to be living inside a warm inter-glacial period. However, once again this formerly general knowledge has become politically inexpedient to our chimpanzee-brain-sized politicians, who would rather wrap us in taxes and regulations rather than take their fingers out of their ears or out of our wallets.

Their pet intellectuals also need to be kept onside to provide supportive cover for the organised criminality of the modern western state. Whereas in the 1970s the intellectual topic ‘du jour’ was an impending ‘ice age’ (caused by evil capitalism), that has currently switched to an impending ‘hot house age’ (also caused by evil capitalism). No doubt it will flip around again at some point, dependent upon the whims and fancies of our tax-eating and regulation-dependent intellectual class.

And so all mentions of ‘inter-glacial’ periods have been stripped out of all state-approved textbooks in those Orwellian indoctrination prison camps for children otherwise known as state schools.

But getting back to the book, I particularly like it because while I was a cognitive behavioural psychology student about 30 years ago – after dropping out from medical school – my main dissertation piece contained many of the same ideas, particularly as to the evolution of human intelligence, which was driven by a series of glaciation events (the so-called ‘ice ages’), which essentially distilled human intelligence from that of those pre-Homo Sapiens human groups, such as Home Erectus, Homo Habilis, and so on.

The basic process was such that during the short but warm inter-glacials of a few thousand years, proto-humans would spread out around the world. And then during the much longer harsh cold dry glacial periods, lasting for tens of thousands of years, this global population would get winnowed down to a remnant of the most intelligent and those most capable of surviving. In a particularly hard glaciation, this could come down to just a relative handful of surviving proto-humans.

Then like a good bus route, another inter-glacial would come along, and the process would repeat.

After many such ‘distillations’, we arrived at ‘us’.

My ideas were then uncontroversial. Indeed, I developed most of them from the source material of standard text books and library papers on genetics. However, these self-same views are now incredibly ‘controversial’, mostly for political rather than for decent scientific reasons driven by either Kuhn or Popper.

But the basic underlying science hasn’t actually changed! Indeed, it has advanced to confirm these original thoughts. Though you’ll rarely hear about such things on either a BBC documentary or inside a Guardian editorial.

As well as describing the evolution of Homo Sapiens, Hoppe also details societal evolution up to the industrial revolution, and how natural aristocracy descended through monarchy into democracy.

Anyhow, to understand how civilisation arose (and then declined) check out this excellent piece of work via this link on Mises.org, where it is freely available as a PDF, an ePUB, and as an audio book.

For those that like that sort of thing, it’s also available to listen to as a three-hour YouTube video, as below.

Andy Duncan is a Vice-Chairman of Mises UK and also the Chief Technology Officer of Finlingo.Com



  1. This is an interesting piece, and it is good to see a reading of von Mises in the light of genetically minded people like Gregory Clark and even Richard Lynn, but I question whether the rethink is radical enough.

    Von Mises, born in 1881, grew to intellectual maturity a generation before the rediscovery of Mendel and the Darwinian synthesis and a good deal that he says in Human Action about ‘the voice of the blood’ and ‘pure stocks’ shows that he thought about human evolution in pre-Mendelian terms. All of which is very relevant to his thinking about nationhood and migration. He held that nations, and possibly even races, have no basis in genetics and are essentially a cultural and geographical phenomenon: it is an unexamined assumption which underpins his supposition that the free movement of people can be subsumed under the free movement of goods and does not need to be argued for separately.

    This aspect of von Mises strikes me as unfortunate, not only because it is extremely questionable, but because conservatives of the race-realist school have been led to assume that, conversely, restrictions on immigration are a package deal with protectionism (see Vox Day passim). John Derbyshire questioned this on Unz.com only last month, and he genuinely wants to know. If you, or Hans-Hermann, have something to say to the alt-right on the question, I think you would command serious attention and find potential allies.

  2. I wasn’t aware of this book by Hoppe before reading your article. I’ve downloaded a copy from Mises.org and look forward to reading it.

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