A short explanation on why conservativism must mean minarchism or anarchism:
But historicist contempt and ignorance of economics does not alter the fact that inexorable economic laws exist. You cannot have your cake and eat it too, for instance. Or what you consume now cannot be consumed again in the future. Or producing more of one good requires producing less of another. No wishful thinking can make such laws go away. To believe otherwise can only result in practical failure. “In fact,” noted Mises, “economic history is a long record of government policies that failed because they were designed with a bold disregard for the laws of economics.”
In light of elementary and immutable economic laws, the Buchananite program of social nationalism is just another bold but impossible dream. No wishful thinking can alter the fact that maintaining the core institutions of the present welfare state and wanting to return to traditional families, norms, conduct, and culture are incompatible goals. You can have one—socialism (welfare)—or the other—traditional morals—but you cannot have both, for social nationalist economics, the pillar of the current welfare state system Buchanan wants to leave untouched, is the very cause of cultural and social anomalies.
In order to clarify this, it is only necessary to recall one of the most fundamental laws of economics which says that all compulsory wealth or income redistribution, regardless of the criteria on which it is based, involves taking from some—the havers of something—and giving it to others—the non-havers of something. Accordingly, the incentive to be a haver is reduced, and the incentive to be a non-haver increased. What the haver has is characteristically something considered “good,” and what the non-haver does not have is something “bad” or a deficiency. Indeed, this is the very idea underlying any redistribution: some have too much good stuff and others not enough. The result of every redistribution is that one will thereby produce less good and increasingly more bad, less perfection and more deficiencies. By subsidizing with tax funds (with funds taken from others) people who are poor, more poverty (bad) will be created. By subsidizing people because they are unemployed, more unemployment (bad) will be created. By subsidizing unwed mothers, there will be more unwed mothers and more illegitimate births (bad), etc.
Obviously, this basic insight applies to the entire system of so-called social security that has been implemented in Western Europe (from the 1880s onward) and the U.S. (since the 1930s): of compulsory government “insurance” against old age, illness, occupational injury, unemployment, indigence, etc. In conjunction with the even older compulsory system of public education, these institutions and practices amount to a massive attack on the institution of the family and personal responsibility.
By relieving individuals of the obligation to provide for their own income, health, safety, old age, and children’s education, the range and temporal horizon of private provision is reduced, and the value of marriage, family, children, and kinship relations is lowered. Irresponsibility, shortsightedness, negligence, illness and even destructionism (bads) are promoted, and responsibility, farsightedness, diligence, health and conservatism (goods) are punished.
The compulsory old age insurance system in particular, by which retirees (the old) are subsidized from taxes imposed on current income earners (the young), has systematically weakened the natural intergenerational bond between parents, grandparents, and children. The old need no longer rely on the assistance of their children if they have made no provision for their own old age; and the young (with typically less accumulated wealth) must support the old (with typically more accumulated wealth) rather than the other way around, as is typical within families.
Consequently, not only do people want to have fewer children—and indeed, birthrates have fallen in half since the onset of modern social security (welfare) policies—but also the respect which the young traditionally accorded to their elders is diminished, and all indicators of family disintegration and malfunctioning, such as rates of divorce, illegitimacy, child abuse, parent abuse, spouse abuse, single parenting, singledom, alternative lifestyles, and abortion, have increased.
Moreover, with the socialization of the health care system through institutions such as Medicaid and Medicare and the regulation of the insurance industry (by restricting an insurer’s right of refusal: to exclude any individual risk as uninsurable, and discriminate freely, according to actuarial methods, between different group risks) a monstrous machinery of wealth and income redistribution at the expense of responsible individuals and low-risk groups in favor of irresponsible actors and high-risk groups has been put in motion. Subsidies for the ill, unhealthy and disabled breed illness, disease, and disability and weaken the desire to work for a living and to lead healthy lives. One can do no better than quote the “dead Austrian economist” Ludwig von Mises once more:
being ill is not a phenomenon independent of conscious will. . . . A man’s efficiency is not merely a result of his physical condition; it depends largely on his mind and will. . . . The destructionist aspect of accident and health insurance lies above all in the fact that such institutions promote accident and illness, hinder recovery, and very often create, or at any rate intensify and lengthen, the functional disorders which follow illness or accident. . . . To feel healthy is quite different from being healthy in the medical sense. . . . By weakening or completely destroying the will to be well and able to work, social insurance creates illness and inability to work; it produces the habit of complaining—which is in itself a neurosis—and neuroses of other kinds. . . . As a social institution it makes a people sick bodily and mentally or at least helps to multiply, lengthen, and intensify disease. . . . Social insurance has thus made the neurosis of the insured a dangerous public disease. Should the institution be extended and developed the disease will spread. No reform can be of any assistance. We cannot weaken or destroy the will to health without producing illness.
I do not wish to explain here the economic nonsense of Buchanan’s and his theoreticians’ even further-reaching idea of protectionist policies (of protecting American wages). If they were right, their argument in favor of economic protection would amount to an indictment of all trade and a defense of the thesis that each family would be better off if it never traded with anyone else. Certainly, in this case no one could ever lose his job, and unemployment due to “unfair” competition would be reduced to zero.
Yet such a full-employment society would not be prosperous and strong; it would be composed of people (families) who, despite working from dawn to dusk, would be condemned to poverty and starvation. Buchanan’s international protectionism, while less destructive than a policy of interpersonal or interregional protectionism, would result in precisely the same effect. This is not conservatism (conservatives want families to be prosperous and strong). This is economic destructionism.
In any case, what should be clear by now is that most if not all of the moral degeneration and cultural decline—the signs of decivilization—all around us are the inescapable and unavoidable results of the welfare state and its core institutions. Classical, old-style conservatives knew this, and they vigorously opposed public education and social security. They knew that states everywhere were intent upon breaking down and ultimately destroying families and the institutions and layers and hierarchies of authority that are the natural outgrowth of family based communities in order to increase and strengthen their own power. They knew that in order to do so states would have to take advantage of the natural rebellion of the adolescent (juvenile) against parental authority. And they knew that socialized education and socialized responsibility were the means of bringing about this goal.
Social education and social security provide an opening for the rebellious youth to escape parental authority (to get away with continuous misbehavior). Old conservatives knew that these policies would emancipate the individual from the discipline imposed by family and community life only to subject him instead to the direct and immediate control of the state.
Furthermore, they knew, or at least had a hunch, that this would lead to a systematic infantilization of society—a regression, emotionally and mentally, from adulthood to adolescence or childhood.
In contrast, Buchanan’s populist-proletarian conservatism—social nationalism—shows complete ignorance of all of this. Combining cultural conservatism and welfare-statism is impossible, and hence, economic nonsense. Welfare-statism—social security in any way, shape or form—breeds moral and cultural decline and degeneration. Thus, if one is indeed concerned about America’s moral decay and wants to restore normalcy to society and culture, one must oppose all aspects of the modern social-welfare state. A return to normalcy requires no less than the complete elimination of the present social security system: of unemployment insurance, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, etc.—and thus the near complete dissolution and deconstruction of the current state apparatus and government power. If one is ever to restore normalcy, government funds and power must dwindle to or even fall below their nineteenth century levels. Hence, true conservatives must be hard-line libertarians (antistatists). Buchanan’s conservatism is false: it wants a return to traditional morality but at the same time advocates keeping the very institutions in place that are responsible for the destruction of traditional morals.
– Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God that Failed