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, February 9, 2012

Wanted: Common Sense And Moral Courage

More wisdom from Ludwig von Mises' Planned Chaos:

The planners pretend that their plans are scientific and that there cannot be disagreement with regard to them among well-intentioned and decent people. However, there is no such thing as a scientific ought. Science is competent to establish what is. It can never dictate what ought to be and what ends people should aim at. It is a fact that men disagree in their value judgments. It is insolent to arrogate to oneself the right to overrule the plans of other people and to force them to submit to the plan of the planner. Whose plan should be executed? The plan of the CIO or those of any other group? The plan of Trotsky or that of Stalin? The plan of Hitler or that of Strasser?

When people were committed to the idea that in the field of religion only one plan must be adopted, bloody wars resulted. With the acknowledgment of the principle of religious freedom these wars ceased. The market economy safeguards peaceful economic co-operation because it does not use force upon the economic plans of the citizens. If one master plan is to be substituted for the plans of each citizen, endless fighting must emerge. Those who disagree with the dictator's plan have no other means to carry on than to defeat the despot by force of arms.

Does anyone disagree that what Mises says is just plain common sense?

Would grocery shopping remain a peaceful activity if government were to mandate that individuals could no longer shop for themselves and their families, but that all grocery shopping would henceforth have to be done by neighborhood bureaucrats acting collectively through a neighborhood shopping authority? Suddenly food shopping would become a highly argumentative, political and controversial activity. Individuals would argue among themselves about which particular foods the neighborhood authority should buy and about how these foods should be fairly distributed among neighborhood residents.

Americans would have to be absolute idiots to endorse such a foolish plan. Yet, Americans long ago adopted such a plan with regard to educating their children. Now we argue over which textbooks our official neighborhood schools should mandate, what subjects their unionized public teachers should teach, what extra-curricular activities their official sociologists should allow, whether they should allow boys and girls to compete in the same athletic contest, what holidays the school administration should allow our children to observe... The list is endless and it will remain endless and contentious so long as we insist that our society's educational system be organized on a dictatorial, one-size-fits-all, public basis.

In the last two years Americans, through their governmental representatives, decided that health care and health insurance in America be organized as a dictatorial, one-size-fits-all public authority. Is it any wonder that every second since this controversial decision was made political infighting, rancor and vitriol has ruled the day? Now the government mandates not only that we must purchase health insurance, it also mandates which procedures are essential and which are not, which procedures are "covered" and which are not, who is eligible to receive treatment and who is not. And the politicization of the medical industry which we have experienced so far is only the tip of the iceberg. Yet, for various stupid, dictatorial or selfish reasons, a good portion of Americans want the government to continue its massive intervention in the medical market.

Government planners and politicians tell us that education and medicine are unique fields of human endeavor, that the problems and issues in these fields are scientific in nature and are best solved by technological experts. They say the same thing about environmental and nutritional issues. The risk to the planet of global warming is far too great to entrust to the personal whims of common individuals in the marketplace. Scientists and technical experts must decide for us what type of energy is best to produce, which kinds of cars are best to drive, what kinds of crops are best to grow. "Best" is not a subjective value judgement but an objective, scientific fact.

By this logic what is "best" for us to eat cannot be an issue of personal taste. Professional experts and dieticians know which foods are healthy for us to consume and which are not. They lobby for Congress to ban sugar, salt, fast foods, candies and a whole spectrum of forbidden fruit. Will it be long until the long arm of the federal government DOES mandate that our food shopping be done by neighborhood experts rather than individuals?

Have we lost our common sense?

Mises continues:

The problems of society's economic organization are not suitable for light talk at fashionable cocktail parties. Neither can they be dealt with adequately by demagogues haranguing mass assemblies. They are serious things. They require painstaking study. They must not be taken lightly.

The socialist propaganda never encountered any decided opposition. The devastating critique by which the economists exploded the futility and impracticability of the socialist schemes and doctrines did not reach the moulders of public opinion. The universities were mostly dominated by socialist or interventionist pedants not only in continental Europe, where they were owned and operated by the governments, but even in the Anglo-Saxon countries. The politicians and the statesmen, anxious not to lose popularity, were lukewarm in their defence of freedom. The policy of appeasement, so much criticized when applied in the case of the Nazis and the Fascists, was practised universally for many decades with regard to all other brands of socialism. It was this defeatism that made the rising generation believe that the victory of socialism is inevitable.

It is not true that the masses are vehemently asking for socialism and that there is no means to resist them. The masses favour socialism because they trust the socialist propaganda of the intellectuals. The intellectuals, not the populace, are moulding public opinion. It is a lame excuse of the intellectuals that they must yield to the masses. They themselves have generated the socialist ideas and indoctrinated the masses with them. No proletarian or son of a proletarian has contributed to the elaboration of the interventionist and socialist programmes. Their authors were all of bourgeois background. The esoteric writings of dialectical materialism, of Hegel, the father both of Marxism and of German aggressive nationalism, the books of Georges Sorel, of Gentile and of Spengler were not read by the average man; they did not move the masses directly. It was the intellectuals who popularized them.

The intellectual leaders of the peoples have produced and propagated the fallacies which are on the point of destroying liberty and Western civilization. The intellectuals alone are responsible for the mass slaughters which are the characteristic mark of our century. They alone can reverse the trend and pave the way for a resurrection of freedom.

Not mythical "material productive forces," but reason and ideas determine the course of human affairs. What is needed to stop the trend towards socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage.

Despite Mises' warning, individual Americans seem perfectly at ease allowing their future to be mapped out for them by powerful, intellectual elites planning what is best for all at Washington cocktail parties and in smoke-filled rooms at political conventions. Individual Americans would rather cede authority to the intellectuals, the politicians and the scientists than fend for themselves.

Who is left among us with the "common sense and moral courage" needed to resist this "trend towards socialism and despotism?"

Certainly not the young. Most young people are empty-headed products of the very public school system mandated by decades of educational "experts." They are self-absorbed, celebrity-enthralled sycophants with the attention span of a gnat. They don't think, they chant. They are chronic complainers who spend their time and resources soothing their paranoia and satisfying their ego with sex, drugs, and social idolatry. Those under 65 overwhelmingly voted for Obama's dictatorial, one-size-fits-all agenda in 2008.

Certainly not the old who either have learned too late or have given up the fight.

Certainly not "single moms" who are probably the individuals in America most dependent on federal government largesse.

Certainly not those privileged by government subsidies and grants. Certainly not the thirty-somethings who flock to law schools and then to Washington to become part of the elite and those who cling to those in power. Certainly not the Wall Street financiers and corporate insiders who sleep with federal power in order to wield it and, in the process, enrich themselves and their snot-nosed, silver-spooned progeny.

Who then? Who then is left with the necessary "common sense and moral courage" to carry on the resistance against tyranny?


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