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Posts Tagged ‘Ludwig von Mises’

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : Police Problems? Embrace Liberty!

Posted by M. C. on April 27, 2021

The drug war is a major reason police have increasingly looked and acted like an occupying army. Police militarization threatens everyone’s liberty. Black people have been subjected to drug war arrests and imprisonment at relatively high rates.

Those interested in protecting and enhancing black people’s (and all people’s) lives should embrace liberty. Libertarians reject the use of force to achieve political, economic, or social goals, Therefore, in a libertarian society, police would only enforce laws prohibiting the initiation of force against persons or property.

Free markets, individual liberty, limited government, sound money, and peace are key to achieving prosperity and social cohesion. Those sincerely concerned about improving all human lives should turn away from the teaching of Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, who advocated expansive government power, and, instead, embrace the ideas of pro-liberty writers such as Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard.

Written by Ron Paul


Many Americans saw former policeman Derek Chauvin’s conviction on all counts last week as affirming the principle that no one is above the law. Many others were concerned that the jury was scared that anything less than a full conviction would result in riots, and even violence against themselves and their families.

Was the jury’s verdict influenced by politicians and media figures who were calling for the jury to deliver the “right” verdict? Attempts to intimidate juries are just as offensive to the rule of law as suggestions that George Floyd’s criminal record somehow meant his rights were not important.

The video of then-policeman Chauvin restraining Floyd led people across the political and ideological spectrums to consider police reform. Sadly, there have also been riots across the country orchestrated by left-wing activists and organizations seeking to exploit concern about police misconduct to advance their agendas.

It is ironic to see self-described Marxists, progressives, and other leftists protesting violence by government agents. After all, their ideology rests on the use of force to compel people to obey politicians and bureaucrats.

It is also ironic to see those who claim to want to protect and improve “black lives” support big government.

Black people, along with other Americans, have had their family structure weakened by welfare policies encouraging single parenthood. This results in children being raised without fathers as a regular presence in their lives, increasing the likelihood the children will grow up to become adults with emotional and other problems.

Those at the bottom of the economic ladder are restrained in improving their situation because of minimum wage laws, occupational licensing regulations, and other government interference in the marketplace. They are also victims of the Federal Reserve’s inflation tax.

Many progressives who claim to believe that “black lives matter” do not care that there is a relatively high abortion rate of black babies. These so-called pro-choice progressives are the heirs of the racists who founded the movement to legalize and normalize abortion.

The drug war is a major reason police have increasingly looked and acted like an occupying army. Police militarization threatens everyone’s liberty. Black people have been subjected to drug war arrests and imprisonment at relatively high rates.

Those interested in protecting and enhancing black people’s (and all people’s) lives should embrace liberty. Libertarians reject the use of force to achieve political, economic, or social goals, Therefore, in a libertarian society, police would only enforce laws prohibiting the initiation of force against persons or property.

A libertarian society would leave the provision of aid to the needy to local communities, private charities, and religious organizations. Unlike the federal welfare state, private charities can provide effective and compassionate aid without damaging family structure or making dependency a way of life. In a libertarian society, individuals could pursue economic opportunity free of the burdens of government regulations and taxes, as well as free of the Federal Reserve’s fiat currency.

Free markets, individual liberty, limited government, sound money, and peace are key to achieving prosperity and social cohesion. Those sincerely concerned about improving all human lives should turn away from the teaching of Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, who advocated expansive government power, and, instead, embrace the ideas of pro-liberty writers such as Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard.

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To Understand Economics, First Understand Private Property | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 10, 2021

Chris Calton

In Man, Economy, and State, Murray Rothbard expounds the principles of economics by reconstructing an economy from the ground up. Following the practice of classical economists, he opens the book by imagining Robinson Crusoe alone on an island. After identifying the operative laws that apply even to isolated individuals, Rothbard’s second chapter considers Crusoe on an island with one other person, introducing the concept of direct exchange, or the barter economy. In the third and fourth chapters, Rothbard considers the origins of money and prices in an economy of indirect exchange.

For a treatise on price theory, Rothbard recognizes the need to explain the origins of money prices, as Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises did before him. In The Theory of Money and Credit, Mises built on Menger’s original explanation for the origin of money by formulating the regression theorem. When considering price changes back through time, Mises theorized, we must naturally come to points of origin and departure. Paper dollars today have no commodity foundation, but we can easily identify the point at which they were disconnected from specie. Going further back, we may not be able to identify empirically the moment at which specie, or any other commodity, was first used as a medium of indirect exchange, but we can logically deduce that such a moment must have occurred as primitive economies grew increasingly complex.

Mises’s theorem offered a number of important insights for price theorists. Perhaps the chief insight is that even though modern money may have no commodity base, the origins of any money could only have been a commodity with some original value in use. No new media of exchange can undermine this history. Even cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, can be traced back to a point at which they were first exchanged for dollars. Dollar prices then trace back to a point of disconnect from a commodity foundation, and those prices trace further to a point of original indirect exchange. Another insight derived from the regression theorem is that money prices depend on exchange. This may seem like an obvious truism, but in the early twentieth-century debates over socialism, the necessity of market exchange highlighted the crucial distinction between technical calculation (What do we need to build a given item?) and economic calculation (What should we build given the resources available?).

In chapter 2 of Man, Economy, and State, before Rothbard summarizes Mises’s insights about the origins of money prices, he considers the origins of property rights. With a citation of John Locke, Rothbard asserts the principle of self-ownership and argues that the original appropriation of property comes from mixing labor with yet-unowned resources, such as clearing land for cultivation. Only after establishing a basis for property rights, does Rothbard turn to considerations of exchange and money prices.

Even friendly scholars, happy to acknowledge the value of Rothbard’s treatise, often consider this passage an unwarranted deviation from value-free economic analysis. Rothbard, they claim, is importing libertarian ethical theory into his economic analysis. John Egger, for example, accuses Rothbard of putting on his “political scientist hat,” arguing that “the ethics adopted by . . . Rothbard cannot be derived from Austrian-school principles and are not necessary to Austrian economic analysis.”1

Even sympathetic Austrians rarely pay much attention to Rothbard’s explanation for the origin of property rights except to occasionally dismiss it as a libertarian deviation from scientific analysis, but I believe Rothbard is offering underappreciated economic insights. Mises recognized that money prices depended on exchange, and he saw the need to explain the origins of monetary exchange. Rothbard took Mises’s idea a step further, recognizing that the prerequisite for market exchange is private property and the origin of property norms is therefore just as relevant to economic analysis as the origins of money and monetary exchange. “Before we examine the exchange process,” Rothbard writes in no unclear terms, “it must be considered that, in order for a person to exchange anything, he must first possess it, or own it.”2

Critical readers might object that we cannot take it for granted that property rights originate in the way that Rothbard describes. Governments, of course, can establish property rights, even if in violation of Lockean ethics, that suffice to provide the conditions for market exchange. But such considerations would be inappropriate for Rothbard’s second chapter, as he is considering an unhampered market economy—one in which governments, as yet, play no role. For markets to exist sans government, then, private property norms must emerge spontaneously.

To this last point, Rothbard never asserts that the Lockean rule of first appropriation is the proper means of establishing property rights (though he certainly believed that and made genuinely ethical arguments along those lines in other works, such as The Ethics of Liberty). In Man, Economy, and State, he simply considers the way property norms could logically emerge in an unhampered market.

Man in a “free, unhampered market … may exchange any type of factor … for any type of factor,” Rothbard writes, but “it is clear that gifts and exchanges as a source of property must eventually be resolved into: self-ownership, appropriation of unused nature-given factors, and production of capital and consumers’ goods, as the ultimate sources of acquiring property in a free economic system” (emphasis in original).3

Rothbard’s argument follows a similar logical structure to Mises’s regression theorem, and in fact even extends the continuum of exchange that Mises outlines. When constructing his theorem, Mises views the end point of his analysis as modern monetary prices, and his point of origin is that moment when a commodity was first used as a medium for indirect exchange. Rothbard has the same end point in mind, but realizing that property rights are (1) necessary for exchange and (2) not a given for any society and therefore warrant explaining, he finds the origins of money prices in the original emergence of private property norms.

Of course, people can provide alternative theories for the origin of private property, but the mere fact that Rothbard recognizes the need to explain property norms is itself a valuable contribution to economics that continues to go unappreciated. The most obvious objection people might offer to counter Rothbard’s theory is no different than the alternative explanation to Mises’s and Menger’s theories for the origins of money: the state must construct property rights and introduce money, thus creating markets.

But as historians and anthropologists learn more about prehistory (the history of man prior to documentary evidence), the statist theories for both property rights and money crumble. Yale political scientist James C. Scott, for example, notes that evidence for the domestication of plants precedes the formation of the earliest states, arguing that states could not exist without a taxable base (grain, most commonly), and the domestication of plants and primitive commerce preceded state formation. Although he doesn’t address property rights directly, Scott notes that the formation of early states “required a host of products that originated in other ecological zones: timber, firewood, leather, obsidian, copper, tin, gold and silver, and honey,” which they obtained through long-distance trade of “pottery, cloth, grain, and artisanal products.”4

Recognizing that economic exchange preceded the state, both Rothbard and Mises raised valid considerations for the origins of money, exchange, and property norms. In offering their theories, they were in fact engaging in a common exercise among classical economists known as “conjectural history.” In the absence of empirical historical evidence, classical thinkers such as Adam Smith and Turgot speculated on the origins of observable, modern institutions based on assumptions about human nature. Although speculative, this method of history was not unscientific. The test of a good theory was that it explained more of what we can observe (both in terms of present society and extant evidence) and omitted less. Historians today who deal with areas of history that have scant documentary evidence, such as Africanists, still engage in conjectural history (even if they may not be aware of its roots in classical political economy).

In this light, Rothbard’s explication for the origins of property norms is not a value-laden prescription for how societies should establish private property rights. Instead, Rothbard is recognizing that early societies must have established some system of private property rights, which individuals recognized reciprocally with respect to each other, and he provides a theory for how this system most likely emerged. It is not an uncontestable idea (no scientific theory is), but scholars dismissing it as a libertarian sidestep from proper economic analysis fail to understand the important economic contribution Rothbard was actually making.

  • 1. John B. Egger, “Comment: Efficiency Is Not a Substitute for Ethics,” in Time, Uncertainty, and Disequilibrium: Exploration of Austrian Themes (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1979), p. 119.
  • 2. Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, with Power and Market, 2d scholar’s ed. (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009), p. 91.
  • 3. Rothbard, pp. 92–93.
  • 4. James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 68–92, 125. Although Scott does not address the question of property rights or exchange, he does reference the role of exchange prior to the establishment of the state


Chris Calton

Chris Calton is a 2018 Mises Institute Research Fellow and an economic historian. He is writer and host of the Historical Controversies podcast.

See also his YouTube channel here.

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Posted by M. C. on February 21, 2021

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'The struggle for freedom is ultimately not resistance to autocrats or oligarchs but resistance to the despotism of public opinion. -Ludwig von Mises FEE'

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Covid-19 and the Socialist Calculation Problem | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on January 14, 2021

Nevertheless, government’s response to covid-19 assumes that it knows everyone’s personal risk hierarchy and can tailor an appropriate public response. This is as impossible as knowing values in a socialist commonwealth. In the place of a hierarchy of wants, we have a hierarchy of risk. And just as everyone’s hierarchy of wants is different, everyone’s hierarchy of risk is different. No one can deny this. We see it played out everywhere.

Patrick Barron

One hundred years ago Ludwig von Mises wrote the definitive exposure of the impossibility of socialism: “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.” In a recent Mises Wire essay—”Socialist Robert Heilbroner’s Confession in 1990: ‘Mises Was Right.’“—Gary North sums up the socialist problem succinctly (his emphasis).

But Heilbroner failed to present the central argument that Mises had offered. Mises was not talking about the technical difficulty of setting prices. He was making a far more fundamental point. He argued that no central planning bureau could know the economic value of any scarce resource. Why not? Because there is no price system under socialism that is based on the private ownership of the means of production. There is therefore no way for central planners to know which goods and services are most important for the state to produce. There is no hierarchical scale of value that is based on supply and demand—a world in which property-owning individuals place their monetary bids to buy and sell. The problem of socialism is not the technical problem of allocation facing a planning board. It is also not that planners lack sufficient technical data. Rather, the central problem is this: assessing economic value through prices. The planners do not know what anything is worth.

Notice North’s point. Socialism is impossible, not just technically difficult. Knowing what to produce requires a price system. A price system requires private ownership of the means of production. Why? Because the price system rests on individually held hierarchical scales of values. And the hierarchical scale of values require private ownership of the means of production. In other words, if you don’t own something, you cannot know its worth. This doesn’t mean that everyone has the same hierarchical scale of values. But all these individual scales of value do meet in the marketplace to determine marginal prices at given points of time. Your Beanie Baby collection may be worth a thousand dollars in today’s market and possibly zilch tomorrow. Now, your beanie baby collection may be priceless to you and you don’t really care about its value to others. But if you decided to make a business of selling Beanie Babies or even to simply sell your collection, you would be forced to confront the reality of the marketplace.

Covid-19 and the Socialist Calculation Problem

You may well ask what this has to do with covid-19. covid-19 isn’t a marketable good. It isn’t owned by anyone. No one wants it. Quite the opposite in fact. True. Nevertheless, government’s response to covid-19 assumes that it knows everyone’s personal risk hierarchy and can tailor an appropriate public response. This is as impossible as knowing values in a socialist commonwealth. In the place of a hierarchy of wants, we have a hierarchy of risk. And just as everyone’s hierarchy of wants is different, everyone’s hierarchy of risk is different. No one can deny this. We see it played out everywhere. Young people in college assess their personal health risk from covid-19 as very low. The aged and those suffering from other illnesses assess their personal health risk as very high. Furthermore, one’s response is determined by what one gives up. The elderly living on pensions may be giving up very little in a lockdown or quarantine other than their social lives. Certainly they are not giving up their life-sustaining income by staying in semi-isolation. But those still of working age have a very different tradeoff. Business owners who are forced to shut down may lose their entire wealth. Salaried and hourly workers may see a slower drain on their wealth, but the longer the lockdowns continue, the more accumulated wealth they will see drain away.

I have used stereotypical broad categories here for illustrative comparisons only. Of course, those of the same age, health profile, wealth accumulation, etc. may have entirely different personal risk assessments. The old adage applies that no two people are alike. These facts of human existence make universally acceptable public policy responses to covid-19 not just difficult but impossible. The only acceptable public response is one of perfect liberty; i.e., each individual decides his own response to covid-19 as long as he does no harm to others.

What about Externalities?

This brings up a common retort that perfect liberty does harm others. A typical government justification for coerced lockdowns and quarantines was that there was a need to conserve hospital beds for the expected onslaught of covid-19 patients. Sounds reasonable at first, but not upon further examination. This so-called line of reasoning rests upon faulty externality theory; i.e., that everything you do affects others in some degree. By this logic government has a right to regulate everything you do. Forgetting for a moment that government’s access to information is no greater than that of thousands of others, there is the ethical problem of government’s right to determine to whom a private entity may offer services. For example, a private hospital may refuse patients who wish to have elective surgery in order to preserve beds for what the hospital considers more important patients, but government may not insert its power of coercion into this decision. Like the socialist allocation problem, government has no “skin in the game” and, therefore, it has nothing upon which to make a universally applicable policy except the temporary prejudice of those currently elected to office and/or those currently working for government. Perhaps an even more damning criticism of the externality rationale is that there is no attempt and probably no definitive calculation of the many adverse consequences to lockdowns and quarantines, from delayed medical treatment that leads to worsening health (both physical and mental) or even death to permanent loss of one’s ability to feed, house, and clothe one’s family adequately.

The Double Standards of Politicians

So, we are left with these conclusions: since all risk is personal, no one knows the risk tolerance of others. Therefore, one’s response to covid-19 is a personal decision based upon one’s personal risk assessment. In other words, perfect liberty must be respected, because it is the only rational option. Impractical? This is the very policy actually followed by many of the authors of the current restrictions. Governor Newsom of California attended a lavish dinner party after issuing new and more onerous restrictions on public and private gatherings. Illinois Governor Pritzker has been unapologetic about visiting his many out-of-state residences after telling his constituents not to do the same. Other politicians have been similarly embarrassed. Are they taking unnecessary risks, both to themselves and others? There is no definitive answer. By the very fact that they violated their own restrictions, we can conclude that they valued their freedom to do so above their personally perceived risk. Why should not that same right be available to all of us? Author:

Contact Patrick Barron

Patrick Barron is a private consultant to the banking industry. He has taught an introductory course in Austrian economics for several years at the University of Iowa. He has also taught at the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin for over twenty-five years, and has delivered many presentations at the European Parliament.

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Rich Millennials Plot the End of Civilization | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on December 23, 2020

Mises saw it differently. “The riches of the rich are not the cause of the poverty of anybody; the process that makes some people rich is, on the contrary, the corollary of the process that improves many peoples’ want satisfaction. The entrepreneurs, the capitalists and the technologists prosper as far as they succeed in best supplying the consumers,” he wrote in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality.

Where do these ideas come from? University faculty, of course. Richard D. Wolff, a Marxist and an emeritus economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said he has been professionally arguing against capitalism’s selling points since his teaching career began, in 1967, but that his millennial students “are more open to hearing that message than their parents ever were.”

The New York Times managed to find some young people whose silver spoons provide a sour taste in their mouths. To hear them talk, their good fortune is making them sick. 

“I want to build a world where someone like me, a young person who controls tens of millions of dollars, is impossible,” Sam Jacobs, 25, told the Times. Jacobs went off to college a normal young man and came back a socialist. Suddenly his family’s “extreme, plutocratic wealth” became too much of a burden for him. 

“He wants to put his inheritance toward ending capitalism,” Zoë Beery wrote for the NYT, “and by that he means using his money to undo systems that accumulate money for those at the top, and that have played a large role in widening economic and racial inequality.”

Wow, that is some self-loathing. If only Ludwig von Mises were able to counsel young Jacobs, whose grandfather founded Qualcomm and who is set to inherit $100 million. In his book Epistemological Problems of Economics, Mises wrote, “Through all the changes in the prevailing system of social stratification, moral philosophers continued to hold fast to the fundamental idea of Cicero’s doctrine that making money is degrading.”

Beery writes that wealth is concentrated in the upper brackets and “Millennials will be the recipients of the largest generational shift of assets in American history.” 

That doesn’t seem like a worrying thought; however, it is for Rachel Gelman, a thirty-year-old in Oakland, California, who described her politics to Beery as “anticapitalist, anti-imperialist and abolitionist.”

“My money is mostly stocks, which means it comes from underpaying and undervaluing working-class people, and that’s impossible to disconnect from the economic legacies of Indigenous genocide and slavery,” the guilty Gelman said. “Once I realized that, I couldn’t imagine doing anything with my wealth besides redistribute it to these communities.”

Mises saw it differently. “The riches of the rich are not the cause of the poverty of anybody; the process that makes some people rich is, on the contrary, the corollary of the process that improves many peoples’ want satisfaction. The entrepreneurs, the capitalists and the technologists prosper as far as they succeed in best supplying the consumers,” he wrote in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality.

Elizabeth Baldwin is a thirty-four-year-old democratic socialist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was adopted from India by a white family when she was a baby. Now, thanks to her adoptive parents, she is wealthy, with a stock portfolio containing shares in Coca-Cola and Exxon-Mobil. 

But, she hates the thought of having her wealth tied up in multinational corporation shares and instead “would rather put my money into a community that has been denied economic resources and disrupts the system.” 

She’s directing her funds toward what she and other wealthy millennials describe as the “solidarity economy.” Fellow traveler and democratic socialist, Emma Thomas, a twenty-nine-year-old, described what she’s now investing in as “an economy that is about exchange and taking care of needs, that is cooperative and sustainable, and that doesn’t demand unfettered growth.”

“At some point, these numbers on a screen are imaginary,” Thomas told the Times. “But what’s not imaginary is whether you have shelter, food and a community. Those are true returns.”

Where do these ideas come from? University faculty, of course. Richard D. Wolff, a Marxist and an emeritus economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said he has been professionally arguing against capitalism’s selling points since his teaching career began, in 1967, but that his millennial students “are more open to hearing that message than their parents ever were.”

We can only thank goodness the parents of these young people believed in serving customers and saving their wealth. This wealth was not created nefariously. As Murray Rothbard explained, “On the free market, it is a happy fact that the maximization of the wealth of one person or group redounds to the benefit of all.” 

What these millennials are up to is not to be ignored. As Mises wrote in his book Liberalism, “Modern civilization will not perish unless it does so by its own act of self-destruction.” Author:

Doug French

Douglas French is former president of the Mises Institute, author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply, and author of Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth. He received his master’s degree in economics from UNLV, studying under both Professor Murray Rothbard and Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

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How is an American Left Still Possible? Four Theses – Letters from Flyover Country

Posted by M. C. on November 28, 2020

Opposition to any given Leftist policy constitutes a threat to their dual cosmologies, that must always be kept in harmony:(a) the inner, mental egalitarian fiction that we are all equal despite overwhelming evidence of the senses and the conduct of Nature and (b) the outer, environmental fiction that Nature, far from being indifferent, is actually taking sides. Stranded dolphins, for instance, somehow become a symbolic demonstration of Earth’s revulsion with Donald Trump’s coiffure

by L. Q. Cincinnatus

“… the methods of thinking that are living activities in men are not objects of reflective consciousness.” — Charles S. Peirce (1892)

The history of the modern physical sciences in the twentieth century is strewn with instances of discipline-shattering “thought experiments.” Perhaps the most famous is Einstein’s 1919 prediction of a solar eclipse proving his theory that light is bent by gravity. It was so dazzling that it cemented his Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

Such exercises reveal that the human mind can so fit itself to empirical reality that remote events may be understood with pinpoint, and even life-saving, accuracy. My favorite example of the pyrotechnic splendor of inductive inference was how NASA scientists predicted, to the very second, when a radio signal would reach the Apollo 8 command module upon emerging from the first orbit of the moon on the morning of December 24, 1968. No proof for this event existed; it had to be logically inferred from the laws of wave propagation.

So, my question is: can you call to mind even one remotely comparable mental experiment from the so-called social sciences? I would venture that most people can’t, and for the very good reason that inductive reasoning is simply the wrong logic tool to use in matters of human behavior. While this is not the place to explore the methodological differences between the physical and the social sciences, the idea that society and human behavior can be conceived as operating under the same laws as Brownian motion or Bernoullian distribution is—or should be—laughable on its face. More on this in a moment.

I would argue that Ludwig von Mises’ 1920 analysis of economic calculation is one of the great, unsung thought experiments in modern science, but because it was conducted as an exercise in deductive, as opposed to inductive, reasoning that it is either wholly ignored or, more likely, not understood.

Through a series of strict deductive inferences anchored in the primary “given” of socialism—the absence of private property—Mises demonstrated that a functioning price system would never emerge, and, as a result, no method of rationally calculating the relative scarcity or necessity for higher order goods of any kind could be used to sustain an economy. Mises stated flatly that a socialist economy was was not merely a contradiction in terms, but impossible (unmöglich).

His analysis was immediately seized upon by socialist theoreticians and planners and the history of its reception, both in the free world and in the countries behind the former Iron Curtain, makes for fascinating reading. In the final analysis, of course, Mises was proven right. Resoundingly so. Because  in 1920, before Lenin had even consolidated power, Mises had already foretold the fate of the Soviet Union. And it would take another seventy years and scores of millions of human corpses for him to finally be vindicated.

And not only was Mises right about the practical matters of socialist planning—about where shoe laces were needed most and how cotton could be sourced and delivered to mills where such laces were to be woven and produced—he was also right about epistemological matters. It is impossible for one mind to command the distributed knowledge of millions of decision-makers conducting and executing valuations in real time in markets that fluidly and without explicit command from a central authority, redirect capital, goods, and labor to match consumer demand. This “knowledge problem” became a centerpiece in the work of his protégé, Friedrich von Hayek, and was rolled out in exquisite detail when he stood to receive his 1974 Nobel Prize in Economic Science.

The central point is that: (1) for fully a century the logical proof of the impossibility of socialism has been known and accepted as the central, indeed fatal, flaw in the socialist project, and (2) that with the fall of the Soviet Union, to say nothing of the real-time, parallel path experiment provided by East and West Germany across four decades, the logical proof was borne out empirically, in social and behavioral form, and in real time.

Even socialist economist Robert Heilbronner had to fess up in 1989 declaring, “Mises was right.” So, with the awareness that one can deduce axiomatically the conditions that produce human poverty, misery, and state-sponsored genocide of its own populace (“democide”), how is it even remotely possible that there can be an active political movement, comprised of millions of people, who seek to reenact the most destructive political and economic experience in human history?

And even more to the point, since the statistical analyses put forth in The Black Book of Communism (1999), to say nothing of the revelations of the Venona decrypts, what kind of human being can countenance the notion of reviving any of the ingredients of this kind of inhumane catastrophe for the reenactment of globally-scaled human misery for life in the twenty-first century?

In Misesian terms, how is the Left even possible?

I would like to lay out four theses that might be used to explain the residual existence of this suicidal theology, this system of faith whose believers are unable to value their own existence—physically, economically, and morally. In all honesty, I think we are looking at a situation where, given differences in age, experience, and cultural milieu, two or more strands are continually being braided together at all times. So while it is important to see various elements in play, the chances are high that there is always some “reverb” between each of these components of this mass political madness at work.

Our political culture was shaped and matured in historical conditions that knew nothing of deliberate cognitive infiltration as a political strategy; therefore, our task is to restore the principles which allowed that political culture so elegantly and effortlessly yield an explosion in life expectancy, quality of life, and per capita wealth—McCloskey’s “great enrichment.” We take this enrichment for granted, as do the enemies of human well-being. So, let’s take a deep breath and consider an array of explanations.

First Thesis: Romantic Ignorance. This is the easiest layer to grasp because it is  seen everywhere. Romantic ignorance as a pretext for “social action” is the adolescent response to the absence of a theological argument against state charity. The Judeo-Christian tradition, broadly speaking, addresses the development of conscience and character by demonstrating how direct acts of compassion, unmediated by coercion or compulsion by others, benefits both receiver and giver.

In the traditional model, charity flows from one’s empathic recognition of distress or injustice, and one engages with the subject or victim without institutional mediation. The moral merit of this scenario is that effort is made to correct the preconditions of the pathology, not merely the conditions. And these preconditions center on the human heart and are communicated non-verbally. Moreover, charity becomes contingent on recognition of the sacrifice involved in providing the relief but also in the correction of behaviors and the evidence of a change of direction and a change of heart. The Right, regardless of the the reflexive contempt of the Left, posits charity on the basis of an inward change; the Left, shallowly and materialistically, believes that redistribution is enough. You give the victim enough “stuff,” and his life will improve; that’s the Left’s answer for every imbalance, inequality, and difference. Fix the optics. I believe it was James Burnham who provided the most excoriating expose of piebald, left wing materialism ever penned.

We recognize the shame of genuine victimhood—just as one does its subjection—by tracking the visual signals of that inward change though outward expressions: dilated pupils, facial responses of recognition, and eventually specific behaviors and the emergence of pride and self-respect. This “soul change” is predicated on the acknowledgement of the existence of the soul which is anathema for all post-religious charity work. The Left, in its thrall with self and sensation, disregards the soul altogether, or sees it where it isn’t. 

The “romantic” dimension comes in the artful self-delusion that one’s efforts can “change the world.” It is horribly selfish (all about the giver), ego-centric (as if single acts can change another’s heart), and hubristic (the simplistic materialism of giving someone a fish to make them less hungry never ultimately works). But there is an enduring enchantment, a romantic delusion that “doing something” is preferable to “doing nothing,” and demanding that others comply with the objective is all part of the experience of collective enthusiasm. The late Murray Rothbard explained how the “romantic ignorance” of Progressivism had cultural roots in the Yankee post-millennial pietism of the Puritans; his belief was that seventeenth-century theological injunctions for the salvation of the individual soul had slowly morphed into a primary ingredient in the Progressive contagion of compulsive and unreflective do-gooder activism that emerged in the course of the post-Darwinian Protestantism of the late nineteenth century.

Irving Babbitt (1865-1933), one of the great humanist scholars of the Right who beheld the sweep of modern culture as as grand coarsening of the spirit, declaimed in his Rousseau and Romanticism that the Romantic impulse led to an unconstrained personality—that the normal inhibitions of the Classic temperament were deactivated by the Romantic germ, and one’s sense of self flowed like an omelette spreading evenly and thinly into the heated pan. Babbitt believed that the Romantic’s “merely aesthetic” consideration of social hypotheticals—scenarios of pity and sin, for instance—was capable of delivering emotional rewards and thus could serve as an unconscious green-light for the conscious contemplation, and ultimately acting out, of self-destructive behavior for aesthetic enjoyment. In his world Romantic impulse was a form of slow-motion suicide undertaken as a racily pleasurable form of aesthetic delectation. Of course with it comes an implicit refusal to contemplate the end-state of a chain of inferences that begins with soul death, and continues with an insensate separation of self from society and indeed from pain. This was all part of the allure of transgression that in revolutionary France saw the emergence of a de Sade and its fulfillment in a Fourier. Babbitt’s romantic was Wolfe’s radical chic in powdered wigs and silk pumps.

Second Thesis: Seeded Deception. The second thesis is a darker, indeed anti-romantic counterpoint to the first. Here, socialism as charity is tacitly accepted to be a failure in reality, but it is simply too good a ruse to ignore as a business model for creating public procurement schemes and related activities to reallocate assets in such a manner as to create cash streams that benefit the “organizers.” Of course, there will be anecdotal case studies describing in great detail and replete with emotional imagery explaining how the charity has immeasurable “human impact.” This is the marketing equivalent of the Madison Avenue huckster who shows you what you want while selling you what he has.

One might say that this is the central operative feature of the modern American educational career: selling socialist ideology as both a science and an aspiration. It is, of course, the career path that individuals who choose a career in “government service” buy into, including many in the military and even seemingly mundane work of the GSA or some other semi-submerged bureaucracy. It was originally called “service” because an educated person with professional training, as an attorney or physician for instance, could certainly command higher pay in the private sector. That is clearly not the case for millions. Indeed, average government wages have, since the Obama years, surpassed private sector remuneration in aggregate. And with this, not only is there no conception of the parasitical nature of this unnatural and anti-economic asymmetry, there is a kind of hubristic pride attached to it—as if one “does well by doing good.” The layers of delusion and economic nonsense are so tightly fused that now everyone is compelled to buy into the deception, quite literally, with every taxed transaction of your financial existence. Is it still abuse if the victim is not conscious of the crimes being perpetrated? 

This kind of seeded deception requires seed (the ideas of Marx), a sower (the educational systems), and intent (the public’s naive trust in the educational system). It may be hard to believe because it all seems so fresh—especially given the cratering of traditional educational standards of the 1980s that were still able to produce an occasional Republican voter—but the deliberate skewing of the educational system for both financial gain and cultural advantage has been underway in this country since the 1840s. I know, I know. You will wonder why, if this is the case, how it is that we didn’t become Sovietized before the Russians! I will describe it in greater detail at another time, but the case has been made in elaborate, forensic detail by the late John Taylor Gatto (1935-2018); it is one important chapter in the long and deep cultural history of the impact of “left-ish” forces since the Reformation that has been part and parcel of the modern Right’s critique prior to the emergence of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s “new” Right in the 1950s.

Ignorance of our own intellectual heritage is one of the intended byproducts of the seeded deception—with the advent of Reconstruction, “current events” evolved from being inert facts to being objects of deliberate propagandistic distortion in the classroom since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. The easiest case in point: every Boomer has been force-fed ideological gavage about the United Nations, probably, since grammar school. The fact that this organization’s objectives and personnel from our own country were dedicated to the victory of international communism is still actively denied by the professional Left. 

We will get as much deception as we tolerate.

Third Thesis: Affective Impairment. This is not a particularly new thought vector. Rossiter and Haidt have looked at the phenomenon of the psychological structure of the liberal Left from the point of view of personality development and the Big Five personality traits, respectively. To simplify, both see the “leftist mind,” if you will, as either not whole, not healthy, or both.

The most pristine example of the practical reality of a cognitive defect on the American Left is, paradoxically, completely understood by the political leadership of the American Left! The classic “Exhibit A” will always be Prof. Jonathan Gruber’s recorded statement that the entire pretext for the wording of Obamacare was, “the stupidity of the American voter.” More specifically, this is a tacit admission that those who were against the bill had correctly understood the fundamentally flawed, indeed criminal, deception involved. Gruber explains that the proponents of socialized “health care” could in fact rely on the intrinsic stupidity of Democrats. The implicit strategy was made explicit:  people who are routinely persuaded by intention alone and habitually ignore the labor of comparing factual and counterfactuals, to say nothing of performing a “gut check” on the potential significance of a bureaucratic shell game—these people could be relied on to miss the deliberate deception.

Indeed, the typical Democrat/Leftist is barely capable of reproducing the basic arguments in support of whatever cause is being marketed to them at any given time; just as certain is their inability to reproduce any rational argument against their cause. In lieu of argument and demonstrations, they rely on aesthetic heuristics—the conformity of an image with the tenets of their belief system. For instance, a taste for a certain stylistic alignment between one’s attire and one’s home furnishings is not a simple matter of “lifestyle preference.” Stylistic immersion and saturation in anti-human systems of form are a dead giveaway that the individual in question sees neither clothes nor dwelling as a fitted environment for the body, the family, and the community. Rather, these objects are seen as props on a stage, where one’s life becomes a platform for the communication of an ideological commitment that is intended to be read as “self expression.” More on the heuristic value of aesthetics below.

Opposition to any given Leftist policy constitutes a threat to their dual cosmologies, that must always be kept in harmony:(a) the inner, mental egalitarian fiction that we are all equal despite overwhelming evidence of the senses and the conduct of Nature and (b) the outer, environmental fiction that Nature, far from being indifferent, is actually taking sides. Stranded dolphins, for instance, somehow become a symbolic demonstration of Earth’s revulsion with Donald Trump’s coiffure. Instances of apophenia of this magnitude are no longer reserved for asylums for schizophrenics; this kind of thinking can be heard from Protestant pulpits, talk show hosts, and even nature programs. 

See the rest here

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Rand Paul Is Right about the Nazis and Socialism | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on October 18, 2020

David Gordon

In “No, the Nazis Were Not Socialists,” which appeared online in Jacobin, the philosopher Scott Sehon makes a surprising claim. In the course of criticizing some remarks by Senator Rand Paul, Sehon says,

Paul seems to quote the mid-century economist Ludwig von Mises:

Under national socialism there was, as Mises put it, “a superficial system of private ownership…[sic] but the Nazis exerted unlimited, central control of all economic decisions.” With profit and production dictated by the state, industry worked the same as if the government had confiscated all the means of production, making economic prediction and calculation impossible.…

It turns out that Paul’s most clear assertion about Nazi control of the economy was, apparently, just something that the senator made up and falsely attributed to Ludwig von Mises.

Had Sehon looked into Mises’s views more carefully, he would have found that Mises did indeed believe that Nazism was a form of socialism, marked by state direction of the economy rather than collective ownership. In Omnipotent Government (p. 56), Mises says,

The German and the Russian systems of socialism have in common the fact that the government has full control of the means of production. It decides what shall be produced and how. It allots to each individual a share of consumer’s goods for his consumption….The German pattern differs from the Russian one in that it (seemingly and nominally) maintains private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary prices, wages, and markets. There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs but only shop managers (Betriebsführer)….The government, not the consumers, directs production. This is socialism in the outward guise of capitalism. Some labels of capitalistic market economy are retained but they mean something entirely different from what they mean in a genuine market economy.

Sehon says that this view is false and cites an article I have not yet been able to gain access to that argues that business under the Nazis retained a large degree of autonomy. But in his well-received book The Wages of Destruction (2007), the historian Adam Tooze says this: “The German economy, like any modern economy, could not do without imports of food and raw materials. To pay for these it needed to export. And if this flow of goods was obstructed by protectionism and beggar-my-neighbour devaluations, this left Germany no option but to resort to ever greater state control of imports and exports, which in turn necessitated a range of other interventions” (p. 113). This is exactly Mises’s point. Interventionist measures in the free market such as price control fail to achieve their purpose. This leads the government to add more interventionist measures in an effort to remedy the situation, and continuing this process can quickly lead to socialism.

This is what happened under the Nazis. Businesses that were reluctant to follow the plans of the new order had to be forced into line. One law allowed the government to impose compulsory cartels. By 1936, the Four Year Plan, headed by Hermann Goering, had changed the nature of the German economy. “On 18 October [1936] Goering was given Hitler’s formal authorization as general plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan. On the following days he presented decrees empowering him to take responsibility for virtually every aspect of economic policy, including control of the business media” (Tooze 2007, pp. 223–24).

Sehon says that there were socialists in the Nazi party, principally Gregor Strasser and his brother Otto, but that their influence ended when Hitler purged this wing of the party in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. (By the way, Otto was more of a socialist than his brother Gregor, and the latter repudiated his brother’s views as too radical.) This is not entirely accurate. What it ignores is that Josef Goebbels, the influential minister of propaganda, held strongly socialist views despite his personal enmity for Strasser.

According to George Watson,

On 16 June 1941, five days before Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, Goebbels exulted, in the privacy of his diary, in the victory over Bolshevism that he believed would quickly follow. There would be no restoration of the tsars, he remarked to himself, after Russia had been conquered. But Jewish Bolshevism would be uprooted in Russia and “real socialism” planted in its place – “Der echte Sozialismus“. Goebbels was a liar, to be sure, but no one can explain why he would lie to his diaries. And to the end of his days he believed that socialism was what National Socialism was about.

In his article, Sehon criticizes Watson extensively for relying on a book by Otto Wagener, a Nazi who was removed from his position of authority in 1932, but he does not mention Watson’s quotation from Goebbels’s diary.

Goebbels was by no means alone among the Nazis holding power in his radical opinions. Ferdinand Zimmerman, who worked as an important economic planner for the Nazis, had been before their rise to power a contributor under the pen name Ferdinand Fried to the journal Die Tat, edited by Hans Zehrer, and a leading member of a group of nationalist intellectuals known as the Tatkreis. Fried strongly opposed capitalism, analyzing it in almost Marxist terms.

Wilhelm Roepke wrote a devastating contemporary criticism of Fried, now available in translation in his Against the Tide (Regnery, 1969). One of the best scholarly accounts of Fried’s views, which includes some discussion of his activities under the Nazi regime, is in Walter Struve’s Elites against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890–1933  (Princeton University Press, 1973).

Sehon makes another misleading point in his article. He says,

Paul’s argument here goes from the undeniable premise that the Nazis had “socialist” as part of their name to the conclusion that the Nazis were, in fact, socialists. For that inference to work, Paul needs an intermediate premise like the following: If an organization has an adjective in their name, then the organization is correctly described by that adjective.

But if Senator Paul really believed this, then he would be forced to conclude that communist East Germany and present-day North Korea count as democracies, for the German Democratic Republic and the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea both have the adjective “Democratic” as part of their name.

Sehon is right that the word “socialist” does not by itself tell us much, but unfortunately it does not occur to him to investigate what the Nazis meant by this word and why they used it. Author:

Contact David Gordon

David Gordon is Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and editor of the Mises Review.

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TGIF: Mises, Ryle, and Me | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 11, 2020

In other words, Ryle set out to solve the old mind-body problem that had plagued philosophy at least since Descartes, and he did it without dismissing purpose, which we all understand in our everyday lives, or objective reality.


In 1949, the first year of Harry S. Truman’s only elective presidential term, three things happened that were of huge importance … at least to me. Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) published Human Action. Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) published The Concept of Mind. And, oh yeah, I was born. The connection here is that Mises’s and Ryle’s books are two of the most influential things I have ever read.

What’s also interesting is what else the books have in common. Human Action sets out the logical structure of all purposeful action as well as its socioeconomic implications. Mises called the study of human action praxeology. Thus while Human Action is one of the most important books on economics ever written, it is so much more.

Ryle’s book is also about human action, but his philosophical accomplishment was to show that our purposeful pursuits require no “ghost in the machine” — no soul, spirit, or mind conceived as a nonmaterial organ — to explain them. (The ghost explanation in fact creates philosophical problems rather than solves them.) Ryle went a step further and showed that, contrary to determinists, neuroscientists, and the like, human action also would require no exemption from the laws of physics to exist. In other words, Ryle set out to solve the old mind-body problem that had plagued philosophy at least since Descartes, and he did it without dismissing purpose, which we all understand in our everyday lives, or objective reality. I’m not aware that the two men ever encountered each other or commented on each other’s work.

Here’s a morsel of Mises:

Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary.


Conscious or purposeful behavior is in sharp contrast to unconscious behavior, i.e., the reflexes and the involuntary responses of the body’s cells and nerves to stimuli. People are sometimes prepared to believe that the boundaries between conscious behavior and the involuntary reaction of the forces operating within man’s body are more or less indefinite. This is correct only as far as it is sometimes not easy to establish whether concrete behavior is to be considered voluntary or involuntary. But the distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness is nonetheless sharp and can be clearly determined….


The field of our science is human action, not the psychological events which result in an action. It is precisely this which distinguishes the general theory of human action, praxeology, from psychology. The theme of psychology is the internal events that result or can result in a definite action. The theme of praxeology is action as such….


Action is not simply giving preference. Man also shows preference in situations in which things and events are unavoidable or are believed to be so. Thus a man may prefer sunshine to rain and may wish that the sun would dispel the clouds. He who only wishes and hopes does not interfere actively with the course of events and with the shaping of his own destiny. But acting man chooses, determines, and tries to reach an end. Of two things both of which he cannot have together he selects one and gives up the other. Action therefore always involves both taking and renunciation.


…Wherever the conditions for human interference are present, man acts no matter whether he interferes or refrains from interfering. He who endures what he could change acts no less than he who interferes in order to attain another result. A man who abstains from influencing the operation of physiological and instinctive factors which he could influence also acts. Action is not only doing but no less omitting to do what possibly could be done.


We may say that action is the manifestation of a man’s will. But this would not add anything to our knowledge. For the term will means nothing else than man’s faculty to choose between different states of affairs, to prefer one, to set aside the other, and to behave according to the decision made in aiming at the chosen state and forsaking the other….


It is true that the changes brought about by human action are but trifling when compared with the effects of the operation of the great cosmic forces. From the point of view of eternity and the infinite universe man is an infinitesimal speck. But for man human action and its vicissitudes are the real thing. Action is the essence of his nature and existence, his means of preserving his life and raising himself above the level of animals and plants. However perishable and evanescent all human efforts may be, for man and for human science they are of primary importance.

We need not ask if human action exists. As human beings, we know it does “from the inside.” Mises called this knowledge a priori because we don’t first discover human action “out there.” In fact, one obviously would demonstrate the existence of human action just by attempting to prove or disprove its existence. To ask if human beings act is in itself to act.

And now Ryle:

The fears expressed by some moral philosophers that the advance of the natural sciences diminishes the field within which the moral virtues can be exercised rests on the assumption that there is some contradiction in saying that one and the same occurrence is governed by both mechanical laws and moral principles, an assumption as baseless as the assumption that a golfer cannot at once conform to the laws of ballistics and obey the rules of golf and play with elegance and skill. Not only is there plenty of room for purpose where everything is governed by mechanical laws, but there would be no place for purpose if things were not so governed. Predictability is a necessary condition of planning…. [Thus] there is no need for the desperate salvage-operation of withdrawing the applications of [biology, anthropology, sociology, ethics, logic, aesthetics, politics, economics, historiography, etc.] out of the ordinary world to some postulated other word, or of setting up a partition between things that exist in Nature and things that exist in non-Nature. No occult precursors of overt acts [e.g., volitions] are required to preserve for the agent his title to plaudits or strictures for performing them, not would they be effective preservatives if they did exist.


Men are not machines, not even ghost-ridden machines. They are men — a tautology which is sometimes worth remembering….


Questions of … patterns are properly asked of certain chain-processes. The question ‘What makes the bullet fly out of the barrel?’ is properly answered by ‘The expansion of gases in the cartridge’; the question ‘What makes the cartridge explode?’ is answered by reference to the percussion of the detonator; and the question ‘How does my squeezing the trigger make the pin strike the detonator?’ is answered by describing the mechanism of springs, levers and catches between the trigger and the pin. So when it is asked ‘How does my mind get my finger to squeeze the trigger?’ the form of the question presupposes that a further chain-process is involved embodying still earlier tensions, releases and discharges, though this time ‘mental’ ones. But whatever is the act or operation adduced as the first step of this postulated chain-process, the performance of it has to be described in just the same way as in ordinary life we describe the squeezing of the trigger by the marksman. Namely we say simply ‘He did it’ and not “He did or underwent something else which caused it’.

TGIF — The Goal Is Freedom — appears on occasional Fridays.

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Mises on Secession | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 8, 2020

[Editor’s Note: Contrary to some attempts to portray Ludwig von Mises as a theorist who rejected radical solutions, we find in his works that Mises supported radical decentralization and widespread secession. Hans-Hermann Hoppe discusses Mises’s views below.]

“A nation, therefore, has no right to say to a province: You belong to me, I want to take you. A province consists of its inhabitants. If anybody has a right to be heard in this case it is these inhabitants. Boundary disputes should be settled by plebiscite.” (Omnipotent Government, p. 90)

“No people and no part of a people shall be held against its will in a political association that it does not want.” (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 34)

“Liberalism knows no conquests, no annexations; just as it is indifferent towards the state itself, so the problem of the size of the state is unimportant to it. It forces no one against his will into the structure of the state. Whoever wants to emigrate is not held back. When a part of the people of the state wants to drop out of the union, liberalism does not hinder it from doing so. Colonies that want to become independent need only do so. The nation as an organic entity can be neither increased nor reduced by changes in states; the world as a whole can neither win nor lose from them.” (Nation, State, and Economy, pp. 39–40)

“The size of a state’s territory therefore does not matter.” (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 82)

“The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.” (Liberalism, p. 109)

“If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done.” (Liberalism, pp. 109–10)

The situation of having to belong to a state to which one does not wish to belong is no less onerous if it is the result of an election than if one must endure it as the consequence of a military conquest.” (Liberalism, p. 119)

“It makes no difference where the frontiers of a country are drawn. Nobody has a special material interest in enlarging the territory of the state in which he lives; nobody suffers loss if a part of this area is separated from the state. It is also immaterial whether all parts of the state’s territory are in direct geographical connection, or whether they are separated by a piece of land belonging to another state. It is of no economic importance whether the country has a frontage on the ocean or not. In such a world the people of every village or district could decide by plebiscite to which state they wanted to belong.” (Omnipotent Government, p. 92)

From an interview with Hans-Hermann Hoppe in the Austrian Economics Newsletter (AEN):

AEN: Was Mises better than the classical liberals on the question of the state?

HOPPE: Mises thought it was necessary to have an institution that suppresses those people who cannot behave appropriately in society, people who are a danger because they steal and murder. He calls this institution government.

But he has a unique idea of how government should work. To check its power, every group and every individual, if possible, must have the right to secede from the territory of the state. He called this the right of self-determination, not of nations as the League of Nations said, but of villages, districts, and groups of any size. In Liberalism and Nation, State, and Economy, he elevates secession to a central principle of classical liberalism. If it were possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, he says, it would have to be done. Thus the democratic state becomes, for Mises, a voluntary organization.

AEN: Yet you have been a strong critic of democracy.

HOPPE: Yes, as that term is usually understood. But under Mises’s unique definition of democracy, the term means self-rule or self-government in its most literal sense. All organizations in society, including government, should be the result of voluntary interactions.

In a sense you can say that Mises was a near anarchist. If he stopped short of affirming the right of individual secession, it was only because of what he regarded as technical grounds. In modern democracy, we exalt the method of majority rule as the means of electing the rulers of a compulsory monopoly of taxation.

Mises frequently made an analogy between voting and the marketplace. But he was quite aware that voting in the marketplace means voting with your own property. The weight of your vote is in accord with your value productivity. In the political arena, you do not vote with your property; you vote concerning the property of everyone, including your own. People do not have votes according to their value productivity.

AEN: Yet Mises attacks anarchism in no uncertain terms.

HOPPE: His targets here are left-utopians. He attacks their theory that man is good enough not to need an organized defense against the enemies of civilization. But this is not what the private-property anarchist believes. Of course murderers and thieves exist. There needs to be an institution that keeps these people at bay. Mises calls this institution government, while people who want no state at all point out that all essential defensive services can be better performed by firms in the market. We can call these firms government if we want to.


Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig von Mises was the acknowledged leader of the Austrian school of economic thought, a prodigious originator in economic theory, and a prolific author. Mises’s writings and lectures encompassed economic theory, history, epistemology, government, and political philosophy. His contributions to economic theory include important clarifications on the quantity theory of money, the theory of the trade cycle, the integration of monetary theory with economic theory in general, and a demonstration that socialism must fail because it cannot solve the problem of economic calculation. Mises was the first scholar to recognize that economics is part of a larger science in human action, a science that he called praxeology.

Contact Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is an Austrian school economist and libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosopher. He is the founder and president of The Property and Freedom Society.

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“Libertarian” Is Just Another Word for (Classical) Liberal | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on September 16, 2019

Long post…

But rest assured, Lew Rockwell reminds us, things could be far worse “were it not for the efforts of a relative handful of intellectuals who have fought against socialist theory for more than a century. It might have been 99% in support of socialist tyranny. So there is no sense in saying that these intellectual efforts are wasted.”

Moreover, the success of liberalism is demonstrated in the fact that non-liberals have long attempted to steal the mantle of liberalism for themselves. In the English speaking world, it is no mere accident of history that social democrats and other non-liberal groups often insist on calling themselves liberal. The effort to expropriate the term “liberal” in the twentieth century was a matter of political expediency. Liberalism was a popular and influential ideology throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. So it only made sense to attempt to apply the term to non-liberal ideologies and coast on liberalism’s past success.3

Today, we continue to see the legacy of liberalism worldwide in discussions over human rights, in efforts to increase freedom in trade, and greater autonomy from state intervention.  The fact that socialists and other types of interventionists win victories proves nothing about the irrelevance of liberalism. They only remind us how much worse things would be were it not for liberalism’s occasional successes. Moreover, efforts by governments to co-opt liberal vocabulary for purposes of building state power are to be expected. We see this often in the call for government managed “human rights” efforts and in calls for globally managed “free trade.” These measures aren’t liberal, but governments know saying liberal things and professing to pursue liberal goals makes for great PR.

Meanwhile, the answer to gains made by social democrats and socialists lies in strengthening the intellectual movement that is liberalism, which over time translates into political action. If liberalism is eclipsed today by other ideologies, the fault lies with us who have done too little, and with the defeatists who declare intellectual fights to be irrelevant to real life, or not worth the trouble.

Liberalism — that is libertarianism — has a long and impressive history that is all too often neglected. But it is, as Raico contended, an indispensable part of “our own civilization.” We’d do well to know more about its history.

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Difference Between Classic Liberalism & Progressivism Defined



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