Friday, February 8, 2008

Mises, the Laissez-Faire Radical (Murray Rothbard)

Back in 1981, the great Murray Rothbard wrote about the surprisingly radical Ludwig von Mises and shows that Mises had strong views on issues other than free markets and classical liberalism. His views on Christianity are, uh, "interesting" to say the least, but it just goes to show that just because someone is brilliant in one field does not mean he/she knows much about another. The article begins like this:

That Ludwig von Mises was the outstanding champion of laissez-faire and the free-market economy in this century is well known and needs no documentation. But in the course of refining and codifying his political views, Mises's followers have unwittingly distorted them and made them seem at one with the modern conservative movement in the United States. Mises is made to appear a sort of National Review intellectual concentrating on the free-market aspects of conservatism. While the image of Mises as an essential conservative is scarcely made up of the whole cloth, it totally overlooks rich strains of Misesian thought that can be described only as "laissez-faire radical." Unfortunately, these strands of Misesian thought have been all but lost. Perhaps this essay will help to right the balance.

There is no need here to try to define and distinguish laissez-faire "conservatism" from "radicalism." A setting forth of various radical positions taken by Mises should make the distinction clear enough.

Some anti-conservative aspects of Misesian thought are, again, too well known to require discussion. Thus, for Mises, personal liberty was required by logical consistency; for, if the government began to restrict or suppress one or a few consumption goods, why should they stop at regulating all? As a champion of consumer sovereignty and the consumer society, Mises also had no patience with aristocratic conservatives who scorned mass consumption or the rule of production by consumer demand.

Read the rest

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