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National Observer Home > No. 56 - Autumn 2003 > Book Reviews

Book Review: Democracy: the God That Failed

A common aphorism is that democracy is a poor system of government, except when compared with other systems. There is some merit in this assessment, but not all alternative systems (including some systems of semi-democracy or modified democracy) have been tried; and in any event, it is important to assess common faults in democracies and to attempt to improve their practical operation.

In Democracy: The God that Failed the author (whose doctorate was obtained in Germany and who is a Senior Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute) examines modern democracies in the light of various evident failures:

"Since the late 1960s or early 1970s, real wage incomes in the United States and in Western Europe have stagnated or even fallen. In Western Europe in particular, unemployment rates have edged steadily upwards and are currently exceeding ten per cent. The public debt has risen everywhere to astronomic heights, in many case exceeding a country's annual Gross Domestic Product. Similarly, the social security systems everywhere are on or near the verge of bankruptcy . . . Moreover, throughout the Western hemisphere national, ethnic and cultural divisiveness, separation and secessionism are on the rise . . . In the United States, less than a century of full-blown democracy has resulted in steadily increasing moral degeneration, family and social disintegration, and cultural decay in the form of continually rising rates of divorce, illegitimacy, abortion and crime. As a result of an ever-expanding list of non-discrimination - ‘affirmative action’ - laws and non-discriminatory, multicultural, egalitarian immigration policies, every nook and cranny of American society is affected by government management and forced integration; accordingly, social strife and racial ethnic and moral-cultural tension and hostility have increased dramatically."

Dr. Hoppe considers especially the lack of balancing factors in democracies. Various pressure groups seek continually increased government expenditures and government regulations. In the absence of sufficient counter-pressures, government regulations and government expenditures increase more and more, and consequently so does the burden of taxation. So, "Every detail of private life, property, trade and contract is regulated by ever higher mountains of paper laws (legislation). In the name of social, public or national security our caretakers ‘protect’ us from global warming and cooling and the extinction of animals and plants, from husbands and wives, parents and employers, poverty, disease, disaster, ignorance, prejudice, racism, sexism, homophobia and countless other public enemies and dangers."

In this context Dr. Hoppe discusses possible ways of over-coming these difficulties, and he observes that a case for secession can be made, that is, "a shifting of control over the nationalised wealth from a larger, central government to a smaller, regional one". He also advises that "all existing wage and price controls, all property regulations and licensing requirements, and all import and export restrictions should be immediately abolished and complete freedom of contract, occupation, trade and migration introduced". He sees this as a step towards the dismantling of government.

Democracy: The God that Failed is thought-provoking, and its author's views on many of the problems today encountered by the liberal democracies merit serious consideration. Their solution is not an easy matter. But ever-increasing government controls and government expenditures must be addressed, or nothing short of a collapse of sustainable society will ensue.

R.M. Pearce

National Observer No. 56 - Autumn 2003