About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are You A Bully, A Toady Or A Victim?

This seems to be the season of old movies, certainly old Christmas movies. The pinnacle of family, seasonal togetherness is gathering around the television with plenty of popcorn and watching "It's A Wonderful Life," or "Miracle on 34th Street," or my wife's personal favorite: "A Christmas Story." (And, please, watch the original versions, if possible, for tradition's sake!)

The other night I was watching "A Christmas Story" for about the thousandth time with my wife. A familiar line of dialog from the movie stuck in my mind. In a particular scene the main character, his little brother and two friends are about to be harassed by a big bully and his little accomplice. The narrator describes the situation: "In our world, you were either a bully, a toady, or one of the nameless rabble of victims!"

I think that line is profound.

A day or so later I was watching another old movie. This one was black and white, made in 1950, named "Crisis." Starring Cary Grant, Jose Ferrer and Paula Raymond, "Crisis" is set in a ficticious Latin American country. Grant is a world famous brain surgeon, Ferrer is the country's dictator/tyrant and Raymond is Grant's naive wife. To make a long story short Ferrer is afflicted with a brain tumor. He kidnaps Grant and wife in an attempt to force Grant to remove the tumor and save his life. The story describes the conflict between the freedom-loving American doctor (I DID say it was an old movie!) and the tyrannical dictator and the struggle between the dictator's government and the rebel partisans. Obviously, Grant is caught in the middle. The film examines the very nature of freedom, the extent to which human beings will go to gain freedom or protect the freedom they have, and the very human urges that make freedom a rare and cherished commodity difficult to possess.

As the trite saying goes, they don't make movies like this anymore.

As I watched the movie "Crisis," I was reminded of the "bully" scene in "A Christmas Story." There are indeed three types of people in the world: the bully, the toady and those who comprise the "nameless rabble of victims." Without giving away the plot of "Crisis," I'll tell you I was struck by Ferrer's realistic portrayal of the classic bully: the government dictator. Such men are powerless of course without the toady generals, gun-toting soldiers and turncoat cowards who surround them. That point is driven home to great effect later in the movie. The "rabble of victims" is also described in the movie with great clarity. I saw soldiers pushing peasant farmers off trains. At one point Ferrer's wife said that the lives of other individuals, specifically Grant's wife, "don't matter."

The lesson in the movie "Crisis" is twofold. First, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether the "rabble of victims" includes potential bullies. And second, it doesn't really matter whether or not you are a victim, but how you react as a victim of tyranny.

Do you give in and become a toady?

Do you fight back using the methods of the tyrant and, thereby, risk becoming a tyrant yourself?

Or do you struggle at all costs to retain your belief in the principles of freedom and human dignity, thereby courageously sloughing off your victimhood?

These lessons are certainly applicable to the times in which we live today.

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