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Quo Vadis, Ludwig von Mises?

October 25, 2010

A Facebook friend wrote an interesting blog about his Libertarian Agnosticism. He wrote the following:

The greatest economist of the century.

The greatest economist of the century.

“I understand that some folks are already decided on what type of libertarian they are without applying the rigor I am demanding of myself in order to reach a definite conclusion. But I owe it to myself and to every person I’ll influence to reach a definite position with full conviction by thoroughly studying it.

… “Of course, by studying the relevant books overtime, I wish to get out of my libertarian agnosticism. But please, for the mean time, don’t bother me with the pros and cons of either minarchy or anarcho-capitalism. I’m not yet interested; I have better things to do.”

Before calling myself a “student of Objectivism”, I was also trapped in this state of “Libertarian agnosticism.” And being a so-called Libertarian-by-name, I admired Ron Paul without understanding his too many contradictions and evil foreign policy.

Here’s my comment on this matter:

Man is not infallible, but he has the ability to know the difference between right and wrong, practical and impractical, good and evil, and moral and immoral through the use of his mind- or through the use of reason. Reason is what the anarcho-capitalists denounce or even reject because of their hippyish, non-reality-based political ideology. We need a government because our human nature requires its use.

In order to survive, man needs an agency that protects him against gangs, criminals, looters, rights-violators, murderers, or any form of evil elements. Man has to be productive, innovative and creative in order to live as a civilized human being, which means he needs an agency with the only political function of protecting his property rights, his intellectual property rights, his pursuit of happiness against looters and parasites. That is, the only proper and moral function of a government is to protect individual rights and freedom.

A stateless system means that man has to focus all his time and energy in protecting his life and property against invading looters and savages. A stateless system compels every man to go about arm armed, to be suspicious of any approaching human being, and to turn his home into a fortress in order to protect his life, his family and his wealth. For even rational men could not possibly live in such a society. The anarcho-capitalists reject intellectual property rights, as they firmly hold that the basis of property is the absurd theory of “scarcity”.

The Objectivists believe that the source or basis of property is man’s right to Life, and that the source of wealth is man’s mind. Before a revolutionary machine is invented,  nobody has the power to manufacture it. In order to produce something of commercial value, man has to rely on the rational functioning of his mind. Every technology or wealth comes from man’s willingness to think or to use his mind. The anarchists believe that the medicines, technologies and computer software that we buy are expensive simply because of what they call “artificial scarcity” made possible by patent law and IP law. Xbox 360, books  and computer software should not be protected by IP law, the anarchists argue, so to make them freely available to the public. This reveals the collectivist, Marxist mentality of the Libertarian anarchists.

Like the communists and Marxists, the anarcho-capitalists also worship “the common good.” This mentality reveals that they believe that wealth is a social entity that should be made available to the public or society. What they tend to forget is that fact that Microsot spent billions of dollars on research and advertising to make Xbox 360 possible. IP law is necessary not merely because it protects the property rights of the creators and producers of wealth, but most especially because man needs to survive and that he’s entitled to the products of his mind. IP law encourages man to be more productive and innovative.

The battle between the so-called minarchists (which is actually a smear term invented by the Libertarian anarchists) and the anarcho-capitalists was over. Libertarianism, as we know it, had long been hijacked by a group of hippies and nihilists who believe that a stateless system is not moral but pragmatic. The Ludwig von Mises Institute is now in the hands of the so-called anarcho-capitalists who have a distorted concept of rights, man’s nature and freedom. The great economist Ludwig von Mises must be rolling in his grave every time the anarchists at Mises Institute spout their anti-freedom, anti-reason rhetoric and irrational, nihilist defense of anarchism.

To set the record straight, here are some Mises’ views on anarchism:

Society cannot do without a social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, i.e. without state and government. The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, p. 90.

There are people who call government an evil, although a necessary evil.  However, what is needed in order to attain a definite end must not be called an evil … Government may even be called the most beneficial of all earthly institutions as without it no peaceful human cooperation, no civilization and no moral life would be possible. Economic Freedom and Interventionism, p. 57.

Anarchism misunderstands the real nature of man. Liberalism, pp. 36-7.

Liberalism [in the European sense-the philosophy of free markets and limited government] differs radically from anarchism.  It has nothing in common with the absurd illusions of the anarchists… Liberalism is not so foolish as to aim at the abolition of the state. Omnipotent Government, p. 48

[Anarchists are] shallow-minded, dull, [and suffer from] illusions and self-deception. The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, pp. 98-9.

And in his book entitled The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, Mises ridicules the anarchists:

It is a double-edged makeshift to entrust an individual or a group of individuals with the authority to resort to violence. The enticement implied is too tempting for a human being. The men who are to protect the community against violent aggression easily turn into the most dangerous aggressors. They transgress their mandate. They misuse their power for the oppression of those whom they were expected to defend against oppression. The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty. The essential characteristic of Western civilization that distinguishes it from the arrested and petrified civilizations of the East was and is its concern for freedom from the state. The history of the West, from the age of the Greek down to the present-day resistance to socialism, is essentially the history of the fight for liberty against the encroachments of the officeholders.

A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists, chose to ignore the matter by suggesting a stateless organization of mankind. They simply passed over the fact that men are not angels. They were too dull to realize that in the short run an individual or a group of individuals can certainly further their own interests at the expense of their own and all other peoples’ long-run interests. A society that is not prepared to thwart the attacks of such asocial and short-sighted aggressors is helpless and at the mercy of its least intelligent and most brutal members. (p.98-99)

While Plato founded his Utopia on the hope that a small group of perfectly wise and morally impeccable philosophers will be available for the supreme conduct of affairs, anarchists implied that all men without any exception will be endowed with perfect wisdom and moral impeccability. They failed to conceive that no system of social cooperation can remove the dilemma between a man’s or a group’s interests in the short run and those in the  long run. (p.98-99)

These are Mises’ immortal, immutable words. No amount of rationalization and nihilistic rhetoric by the modern-day anarchists at Mises Institute could ever change the fact that Mises utterly rejected, repudiated anarchism or any form of statelessness. The greatest economist of the past century himself said that both the anarchists and socialists are vulnerable to the “illusions and deceptions” created by the political scientists “who become preoccupied with detail, with the numberless instances
of petty jealousy, envy, personal ambition, and covetousness displayed by the actors on the political scene.” (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, 99-100)

Today there’s a need to save laissez-faire capitalism not only from the utilitarian mentality and mystical morality of the conservatives, but most importantly from the perverted political ideology of the anti-freedom Libertarians. And I believe that one of the men who can save libertarianism (not the political movement or the party) and free-market capitalism is the great Austrian economist himself: Ludwig von Mises.

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