Introduction to Democracy, The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
by Hans-Hermann Hoppe (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2001)
"World War I marks one of the great watersheds of modern history. With its end the transformation of the entire Western world from monarchical rule and sovereign kings to democratic-republican rule and sovereign people that began with the French Revolution was completed. Until 1914, only three republics had existed in Europe - France, Switzerland and after 1911, Portugal; and of all major European monarchies only the United Kingdom could be classified as a parliamentary system, i. e., one in which supreme power was vested in an elected parliament. Only four years later, after the United States had entered the European war and decisively determined its outcome, monarchies all but disappeared, and Europe along with the entire world entered the age of democratic republicanism.
In Europe, the militarily defeated Romanovs, Hohenzollerns, and Habsburgs had to abdicate or resign, and Russia, Germany, and Austria became democratic republics with universal - male and female - suffrage and parliamentary governments. Likewise, all of the newly created successor states with the sole exception of Yugoslavia adopted democratic republican constitutions. In Turkey and Greece, the monarchies were overthrown. And even where monarchies remained nominally in existence, as in Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries, monarchs no longer exercised any governing power. Universal adult suffrage was introduced, and all government power was vested in parliaments and "public" officials.
The world-historic transformation from the ancien regime of royal or princely rulers to the new democratic-republican age of popularly elected or chosen rulers may be also characterized as that from Austria and the Austrian way to that of America and the American way. This is true for several reasons. First off, Austria initiated the war, and America brought it to a close. Austria lost, and America won. Austria was ruled by a monarch - Emperor Franz Joseph - and America by a democratically elected President - Professor Woodrow Wilson. More importantly, however, World War I was not a traditional war fought over limited territorial objectives, but an ideological one; and Austria and America respectively were (and were perceived as such by the contending parties) the two countries that most clearly embodied the ideas in conflict with each other.
World War I began as an old-fashioned territorial dispute. However, with the early involvement and the ultimate official entry into the war by the United States in April 1917, the war took on a new ideological dimension. The United States had been founded as a republic, and the democratic principle, inherent in the idea of a republic, had only recently been carried to victory as the result of the violent defeat and devastation of the secessionist Confederacy by the centralist Union government. At the time of World War I, this triumphant ideology of an expansionist democratic republicanism had found its very personification in then U.S. President Wilson. Under Wilson's administration, the European war became an ideological mission - to make the world safe for democracy and free of dynastic rulers. When in March 1917 the U.S.-allied Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and a new democratic-republican government was established in Russia under Kerenski, Wilson was elated. With the Czar gone, the war had finally become a purely ideological conflict: of good against evil. Wilson and his closest foreign policy advisors, George D. Herron and Colonel House, disliked the Germany of the Kaiser, the aristocracy, and the military elite. But they hated Austria. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn has characterized the views of Wilson and the American left, "Austria was far more wicked than Germany. It existed in contradiction of the Mazzinian principle of the national state, it had inherited many traditions as well as symbols from the Holy Roman Empire (double-headed eagle, black-gold colors, etc.); its dynasty had once ruled over Spain (another bete noire); it had led the Counter-Reformation, headed the Holy Alliance, fought against the Risorgimento, suppressed the Magyar rebellion under Kossuth (who had a monument in New York City), and morally supported the monarchical experiment in Mexico. Habsburg - the very name evoked memories of Roman Catholicism, of the Armada, the Inquisition, Metternich, Lafayette jailed at Olmuetz and Silvio Pellico in Bruenn's Spielberg fortress. Such a state had to be shattered, such a dynasty had to disappear."
As an increasingly ideologically motivated conflict, the war quickly degenerated into a total war. Everywhere, the entire national economy was militarized (war socialism), and the time-honored distinction between combatants and non-combatants and military and civilian life fell by the way-side. For this reason, World War I resulted in many more civilian casualties - victims of starvation and disease - than of soldiers killed on the battlefields. Moreover, due to the ideological character of the war, at its end no compromise peace but only total surrender, humiliation, and punishment was possible. Germany had to give up her monarchy, and Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France as before the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. The new German republic was burdened with heavy long-term reparations. Germany was demilitarized, the German Saarland was occupied by the French, and in the East large territories had to be ceded to Poland (West Prussia and Silesia). However, Germany was not dismembered and destroyed. Wilson had reserved this fate for Austria. With the deposition of the Habsburgs the entire Austrian-Hungarian Empire was dismembered. As the crowning achievement of Wilson's foreign policy, two new and artificial states: Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, were carved out of the former Empire. Austria herself, for centuries one of Europe's great powers, was reduced in size to its small German-speaking heartland; and, as another of Wilson's legacies, tiny Austria was forced to surrender its entirely German province of Southern Tyrolia - extending to the Brenner Pass - to Italy.
Since 1918 Austria has disappeared from the map of international power politics. Instead, the United States has emerged as the world's leading power. The American age - the pax Americana - had begun. The principle of democratic republicanism had triumphed. It was to triumph again with the end of World War II, and once more, or so it seemed, with the collapse of the Soviet Empire in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For some contemporary observers, the "End of History" has arrived. The American idea of universal and global democracy has finally come into its own.
Meanwhile, Habsburg-Austria and the proto-typical pre-democratic Austrian experience assumed no more than historical interest. To be sure, it was not that Austria had not achieved any recognition. Even democratic intellectuals and artists from any field of intellectual and cultural endeavor could not ignore the enormous level of productivity of Austro-Hungarian and in particular Viennese culture. Indeed, the list of great names associated with late nineteenth and early twentieth century Vienna is seemingly endless. However, rarely has this enormous intellectual and cultural productivity been brought in a systematic connection with the pre-democratic tradition of the Habsburg monarchy. Instead, if it has not been considered a mere coincidence, the productivity of Austrian-Viennese culture has been presented "politically correctly" as proof of the positive synergistic effects of a multi-ethnic society and of multi-culturalism.
If the United States had followed a strict non-interventionist foreign policy, it is likely that the intra-European conflict would have ended in late 1916 or early 1917 as the result of several peace initiatives, most notably by the Austrian Emperor Charles I. Moreover, the war would have been concluded with a mutually acceptable and face-saving compromise peace rather than the actual dictate. Consequently, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia would have remained traditional monarchies instead of being turned into short-lived democratic republics. With a Russian Czar and a German and Austrian Kaiser in place, it would have been almost impossible for the Bolsheviks to seize power in Russia, and in reaction to a growing communist threat in Western Europe, for the Fascists and National Socialists to do the same in Italy and Germany. Millions of victims of communism, national socialism, and World War II would have been saved. The extent of government interference with and control of the private economy in the United States and in Western Europe would never have reached the heights seen today. And rather than Central and Eastern Europe (and consequently half of the globe) falling into communist hands and for more than forty years being plundered, devastated, and forcibly insulated from Western markets, all of Europe (and the entire globe) would have remained integrated economically (as in the nineteenth century) in a world-wide system of division of labor and cooperation. World living standards would have grown immensely higher than they actually have. (...)"
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Introduction to Democracy, The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Publicada por CN em 18:15