Message in a Bottle

Monday, May 31, 2004

Is there a case for Monarchism?

Walter Block, in his review of Democracy, The God that Failed by Hoppe, writes that a monarchy is preferable to democracy since monarchs aren´t as shortsighted
If he engaged in socialism, or promulgated price controls (especially for things he purchased), or raised taxes very much, or indulged in too much inflation, or expropriated property or in any other way threatened his people’s incentives to create wealth, he might make out like a bandit (which he was in any case) in the short run, but in the long run he would kill or at least seriously maim the goose that was giving him all those golden eggs.

No one worries about an oil change for a rental car, but if you own one, you tend to keep in mind its future operation. And, as an added incentive, if the prince didn’t act in a reasonably responsible way, if he was in the process of ruining things, a son or a nephew or a brother would likely assassinate him, secure in the knowledge that the law of succession would transfer these spoils in his own direction.

But then a second tragedy befell mankind, one far more serious: we moved from monarchy to democracy. Now, all bets were off. The President or Prime Minister or Elected Leader knew that he had only so much time to feather his own nest. Why worry unduly about the future of the economy when he will not be around to collect after the next four years? Nor could he pass off his "kingdom" to his heirs. "Grab now" and "make hay while the sun shines" became the mottos of the elected officeholder.

This is not the place to discuss what gives bad incentives, but it is anything from clear why the optimal exproprietion the ruler does should be good for the citizens. Even stranger is the view that bad policies should result in the monarch to be more likely to be killed by his 'loved ones'. After all, wouldn´t it be be better to steal a fat cow? Does he think it is easy to murder a paranoid dictator today? And has Block ever heard of reelected politicians? I am always amazed at how mad the folks at mises.org are.