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Category — Mises, Ludwig von

‘Trends Can Change’ (Mises): The Context (Part II)

“Soviet-style central planning may have died with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But what has not yet had that demise is that other variation on the collectivist theme: ‘democratic socialism’ (European-style) and the redistributive welfare state.”

“But what is required, what is asked of all of us who care about liberty, is not to allow the everyday ‘trends’ and outcomes of electoral politics to make us so despondent that we ‘give up the good fight.’ Only if we do so will the institutions of the paternalistic welfare state remain intact — even as the money dries up!”

It is worth recalling the state of the world when Ludwig von Mises wrote “Trends Can Change” 61 years ago (see Part I in this series).

Nazi socialism had been defeated six years earlier in 1945. But Soviet-style socialism seemed to be the wave of the future. Stalin had imposed an “iron curtain” over Eastern Europe. Two years earlier, in 1949, communism had triumphed in mainland China under Chairman Mao. And the U.S. was in the midst of fighting a war in Korea against the Chinese Communists who had come to the aid of the North Koreans.

At home, under President Harry Truman, wage and price controls had been imposed in the name of the (Korean) “war effort,” and the steel industry had been threatened with nationalization as part of a wartime “national emergency.” And due to the “Red Scare,” civil liberties seemed threatened on the basis of a person’s political beliefs.

The trends toward collectivism at home and abroad seemed irresistible and “inevitable.”

Freedom Foes: Old and New

Yet a half century later, we learned that it was Soviet communism that ended up (to use Karl Marx’s phrase) on the “ash heap of history.” [Read more →]

November 13, 2012   2 Comments

‘Trends Can Change’: Ludwig von Mises (1951) Speaks to Us Today

“[T]rends of evolution can change, and hitherto they almost always have changed. But they changed only because they met firm opposition. The prevailing trend toward … the servile state will certainly not be reversed if nobody has the courage to attack its underlying dogmas.”

- Ludwig von Mises (see below)

Statism won at the top of the ticket earlier this week–and many places beneath. Limited-government advocates are feeling low and wondering if the dependency vote can be overcome in future elections to turn fiscal crises into new opportunities for economic freedom.

Small consolation: the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson beat the Green Party’s Jill Stein by a landslide. But the small parties combined received less than two million votes. Johnson’s 1.2 million votes–about 1.2 percent in the 48 states where he was on the ballot–compared to 400,000 for Stein. [1]

But think back to most of the last century where central economic planning was the orthodoxy. If you were not a socialist, you were a Keynesian. It was hard for even the greatest of the great free-market economists, including the author of the excerpt below, to get university appointments.

And don’t forget how a Cornell economist got in trouble with his department over his assigned reading of F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom in 1946.   F. A. “Baldy” Harper went on to help found the Foundation for Economic Education in that year and went on to found the Institute for Humane Studies, now at George Mason University.

Feeling low the day after the election, I left the public policy world and began reading a book on the legendary football coach at the University of Texas, Darrell K. Royal. He had many memorable quotations, and one struck me as pertinent given another four years of Obama. Royal said back in 1966:

“Defeat comes from within. There is no such thing as defeat, except in no longer trying …. It is when an individual admits down deep in his heart that he has had all he wants that he becomes defeated. As long as he still fights and has not given up, there is still a chance.”

Just hours later I heard that Coach Royal died at age 88 in Austin, Texas (New York Times obit here).

Trends Can Change!

Now to the wisdom of Ludwig von Mises that he penned more than sixty years ago against the Marxian doctrine of historical determinism against capitalism. [Read more →]

November 9, 2012   5 Comments

The Crisis of Interventionism (Mises’s 1949 wisdom speaks to the limits of government- forced energy transformation today)

Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action: A Treatise on Economics might stand as the single greatest social science book of the 20th century. Written in 1949, with slight revisions in 1961 and 1966, Human Action has been described as economics as it might have been and should be. No economists jokes here! This book is all about using sound assumptions and logically deriving the qualitative truths, the science, of economics.

I spent the summer of my sophomore year in college (1975) teaching tennis and studying Human Action. It was slow reading, and I worked up my own index to help me. I underlined profusely and wrote margin notes.

It was exhilarating. I had just changed my major from business to economics and wanted a solid foundation, a worldview, to understand the business and economic world. This book gave me that–and more.

Part Six of the 900-page treatise is called The Hampered Market Economy. Mises explains government intervention in detail, from taxation to production controls to consumption rules. He also examines the redistributive state and business-government corporativism. Money and credit manipulation by decree is also covered.

This part ends with a section, The Crisis of Intervention. MasterResource this week has explored the current crisis of Big U.S. Government in light of the Misesian concept of the exhaustion of the reserve fund.

The Obama Administration today is at the crossroads of fundamentally less or more government. More federal spending, even greater budget deficits, federalizing and socializing economic sectors, forcefully transforming factors of production (think energy) will no doubt bring on a feared death spiral.

But more Americans than ever have woken up to this fact. The path of significant and continuing government cutbacks–bringing balanced budgets in the short-to-medium-term and tax cuts in the longer term–is part of this libertarian renaissance.

                                The Harvest of Interventionism

                                                   by Ludwig von Mises [Read more →]

July 22, 2011   5 Comments