Monday, September 29, 2003

Heureux Anniversaire LVM

Ludwig von Mises was born today in 1881 at Lemberg in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Here are a few select quotes:

***"The rich adopt novelties and become accustomed to their use. This sets a fashion which others imitate. Once the richer classes have adopted a certain way of living, producers have an incentive to improve the methods of manufacture so that soon it is possible for the poorer classes to follow suit. Thus luxury furthers progress. Innovation "is the whim of an elite before it becomes a need of the public. The luxury today is the necessity of tomorrow." Luxury is the roadmaker of progress: it develops latent needs and makes people discontented. In so far as they think consistently, moralists who condemn luxury must recommend the comparatively desireless existence of the wild life roaming in the woods as the ultimate ideal of civilized life."***

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"Once it has been perceived that the division of labour is the essence of society, nothing remains of the antithesis between individual and society. The contradiction between individual principle and social principle disappears."

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"The common man is the sovereign consumer whose buying or abstention from buying ultimately determines what should be produced and in what quantity and quality."

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"Liberalism rejects aggressive war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility. It rejects aggressive war because it regards victory as harmful, and it wants no conquests because it sees them as an unsuitable means for reaching the ultimate goals for which it strives. Not through war and victory but only through work can a nation create the preconditions for the well-being of its members. Conquering nations finally perish, either because they are annihilated by strong ones or because the ruling class is culturally overwhelmed by the subjugated."

Ludwig von Mises
Nation, State, and Economy (1919)
New York University Press, 1983, pp. 87

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"[T]he school is a political prize of the highest importance. It cannot be deprived of its political character as long as it remains a public and compulsory institution. There is, in fact, only one solution: the state, the government, the laws must not in any way concern themselves with schooling or education. Public funds must be not be used for such purposes. The rearing and instruction of youth must be left entirely to parents and to private associations and institutions."

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"The nations must come to realize that the most important problem of foreign policy is the establishment of lasting peace, and they must understand that this can be assured throughout the world only if the field of activity permitted to the state is limited to the narrowest range. Only then will the size and extent of the territory subject to the sovereignty of the state no long assume such overwhelming importance of the life of the individual as to make it seem natural, now as in the past, for rivers of blood to be shed in disputes over boundaries."

Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism (1929)
Cobden Press, 1985, p. 144

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"The first thing a genius needs is to breath free air."

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"The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty."

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"Business is a means- the only means- to increase the quantity of goods available for preserving life and rendering it more agreeable."

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"Those fighting for free enterprise and free competition do not defend the interests of those rich today. They want a free hand left to unknown men who will be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow..."

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"If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization."

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"The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster."

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***"What pays under capitalism is satisfying the common man, the customer. The more people you satisfy, the better for you."***

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"The uncouth hordes of common men are not fit to recognize duly the merits of those who eclipse their own wretchedness."

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"Scientific criticism has no nobler task than to shatter false beliefs."

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"The meaning of economic freedom is this: that the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society."

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"Society is joint action and cooperation in which each participant sees the other partner's success as a means for the attainment of his own."

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"The aim of all struggles for liberty is to keep in bounds the armed defenders of peace, the governors and their constables. The political concept of the individual's freedom means: freedom from arbitrary action on the part of the police power."

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***"All varieties of interference with the market phenomena not only fail to achieve the ends aimed at by their authors and supporters, but bring about a state of affairs which - from the point of view of their authors' and advocates valuations - is less desirable than the previous state of affairs which they were designed to alter."***

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"Profits are the driving force of the market economy. The greater the profits, the better the needs of the consumers are supplied."

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"Government is the only institution that can take a perfectly good piece of paper, print some noble words on it, and make it perfectly worthless."

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“The market economy involves peaceful cooperation. It bursts asunder when the citizens turn into warriors and, instead of exchanging commodities and services, fight one another.”

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“The market economy--capitalism--is based on private ownership of the material means of production and private entrepreneurship. The consumers by their buying or abstention from buying ultimately determine what should be produced and in what quantity and quality. They render profitable the affairs of those businessmen who best comply with their wishes and unprofitable the affairs of those who do not produce what they are asking for most urgently. . . ”

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“Liberty is meaningless if it is only the liberty to agree with those in power.”

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“Progress is precisely that which the rules and regulations did not foresee.”

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“War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”

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***“It is impossible to understand the history of economic thought if one does not pay attention to the fact that economics as such is a challenge to the conceit of those in power. An economist can never be a favorite of autocrats and demagogues. With them he is always the mischief-maker, and the more they are inwardly convinced that his objections are well-founded, the more they hate him.”***

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“Government is beating into submission, imprisoning, and killing. . . The authority of man-made law is entirely due to weapons of the constables who enforce obedience to its provisions.”

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“The philosophy called individualism is a philosophy of social cooperation and the progressive intensification of the social nexus.”

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“If the small minority of enlightened citizens who are able to conceive sound principles of political management do not succeed in winning the support of their fellow citizens and converting them to the endorsement of policies that bring and preserve prosperity, the cause of mankind and civilization is hopeless. There is no other means to safeguard a propitious development of human affairs than to make the masses of inferior people adopt the ideas of the elite. This has to be achieved by convincing them. It cannot be accomplished by a despotic regime that instead of enlightening the masses beats them into submission. In the long run the ideas of the majority, however detrimental they may be, will carry on. The future of mankind depends on the ability of the elite to influence public opinion in the right direction.”

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“To complain of lack of leadership is, in the field of political affairs, the characteristic attitude of all harbingers of dictatorship.”

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“Man is a being capable of subduing his instincts, emotions, and impulses; he can rationalize his behavior. He renounces the satisfaction of a burning impulse in order to satisfy other desires. He is not a puppet of his appetites. A man does not ravish every female that stirs his senses; he does not devour every piece of food that entices him; he does not knock down every fellow he would like to kill. He arranges his wishes and desires into a scale, he chooses; in short, he acts.”

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“Where there is no market there is no price system, and where there is no price system there can be no economic calculation.”

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“The paradox of planning is that it cannot plan, because of the absence of economic calculation. What is called a planned economy is no economy at all.”

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“If we were to renounce monetary calculation, every economic computation would become absolutely impossible. . . . [The socialist society] must forgo the intellectual division of labor that consists in the cooperation of all entrepreneurs, landowners, and workers as producers and consumers in the formation of market prices. But without it, rationality, i.e., the possibility of economic calculation, is unthinkable.”

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“It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. . . . Taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employer of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.”

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“The gold standard makes the money's purchasing power independent of the changing, ambitions and doctrines of political parties and pressure groups. This is not a defect of the gold standard; it is its main excellence.”

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***“The state is essentially an apparatus of compulsion and coercion. The characteristic feature of its activities is to compel people through the application or the threat of force to behave otherwise than they would like to behave.”***

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“Durable peace is only possible under perfect capitalism, hitherto never and nowhere completely tried or achieved. In such a Jeffersonian world of unhampered market economy the scope of government activities is limited to the protection of the lives, health, and property of individuals against violence or fraudulent aggression.”

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“Marching ever further on the way of interventionism, first Germany, then Great Britain and many other European countries have adopted central planning, the Hindenburg pattern of socialism. It is noteworthy that in Germany the deciding measures were not resorted to be the Nazis, but some time before Hitler seized power by Brüning . . . and in Grerat Britain not by the Labour Party but by the Tory Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill.”

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“Violent resistance against the power of the state is the last resort of the minority in its effort to break loose from the oppression of the majority. . . . The citizen must not be so narrowly circumscribed in his activities that, if he thinks differently from those in power, his only choice is either to perish or to destroy the machinery of state.”

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“As the prosperity of the nation and the height of wage rates depend on a continual increase in the capital invested in its plants, mines and farms, it is one of the foremost tasks of good government to remove all obstacles that hinder the accumulation and investment of new capital.”

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“The standard of living of the common man is higher in those countries which have the greatest number of wealthy entrepreneurs.”

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“The essential characteristic features of state and government do not depend on their particular structure and constitution. They are present both in despotic and in democratic governments. Democracy too is not divine. We shall later deal with the benefits that society derives from democratic government. But great as these advantages are, it should never be forgotten that majorities are no less exposed to error and frustation than kings and dictators. That a fact is deemed true by the majority does not prove its truth. That a policy is deemed expedient by the majority does not prove its expediency. The individuals who form the majority are not gods, and their joint conclusions are not necessarily godlike.”

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