Why Libertarians Should Read Mises
By Duncan Whitmore
In this final part of three essays exploring the importance of Ludwig von Mises’ for libertarian thought, we will examine Mises’ views on the fundamental importance of economics in society, and the meaning of this for understanding the particular nature of the state and statism in our own time. We will then conclude (in a separate post) with an annotated bibliography of Mises’ major works.
The Fundamental Importance of Economics in Society
Mises had a particularly insightful understanding of the special, foundational status of economics and the influence of economic theory in human society. In his own words:
Economics […] is the philosophy of human life and action and concerns everybody and everything. It is the pith of civilization and of man’s human existence.
Economics deals with society’s fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every citizen.
The body of economic knowledge is an essential element in the structure of human civilization; it is the foundation upon which modern industrialism and all the moral, intellectual, technological, and therapeutical achievements of the last centuries have been built. It rests with men whether they will make the proper use of the rich treasure with which this knowledge provides them or whether they will leave it unused. But if they fail to take the best advantage of it and disregard its teachings and warnings, they will not annul economics; they will stamp out society and the human race.1
The Useful Idiocy of the Left
By Duncan Whitmore
The typical libertarian is unlikely to open his YouTube account or Twitter feed without encountering a cascade of material in which a) the left is drawing attention to itself in a loud and obnoxious manner; and b) libertarians, conservatives and their fellow travellers are castigating the left for whatever it is doing. Given all of this attention paid to the left one would have thought that they must have something important to say. Let us look at a few recent examples to see if this is true.
On August 11th it was reported in the news that around a hundred or so protestors had appeared in the constituency of Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths to demand his resignation. No doubt the motivation of a small crowd of Mr Griffiths’ constituents to give up their afternoon and don placards calling for his head owed itself to something extremely serious. After all, surely we would only bother to march through the streets to protest if the matter was as grave as an illegal war, right?
Actually, the flames of fury were ignited by something altogether less serious. Mr Griffiths, who is married, had been sending a considerable volume of lewd text messages to two barmaids, the contents of which were published by the Sunday Mirror. The high crime which had fuelled the protestors’ rage was that Mr Griffiths is a “misogynist”, the protest calling for nothing more than a rejection of his “behaviour and attitudes”. Read more
Activism in Daily Life:
Casting Votes that Count
by Sean Gabb
25th August 2018
The more raddled and droopy my face grows, the more inclined I am to agree with a proposition put to me by various friends since before I needed to shave. This is that political activism is a waste of time. Oh, writing about politics – analysis, denunciation, a general flying of the ideological flag – that is probably time well-spent. I have always enjoyed it, and may have done no harm to the causes thereby supported. The waste of time is electoral politics and involvement in campaign groups. The first means joining political parties over which we have no control, and that are led by people whose behaviour – and increasingly whose speech – reveals them as our sworn enemies. The second means giving money to people who, with a few percentage wobbles either side, operate on the “Eighty-Twenty Principle.” 80p of every pound you hand over will be spent on whores and cocaine. Whatever remains that is not merely wasted will be spent on getting someone cheap to do the promised work. Read more
Anti-Leftism: A Century of Failure
7th July 2018
I am currently preparing another book of essays by my late friend Chris R. Tame. He was an accomplished bibliographer, and I have been slowed down in publishing his book by the need to type in hundreds of references scribbled over the hard copy. This has reminded me of the immense body of literature produced on our side between about 1930 and 1990. University professors, university journals, policy institutes lavishly funded by big business, economists, historians, philosophers, historians, sociologists, political scientists, journalists – no criticism in this period that could be made of the managerial state was left unmade. In writing his essays, Chris ran over whole libraries of books and articles. I read many of them when I was younger, and was convinced. Read more
Libertarianism and the Collective
By Duncan Whitmore
“Liberty means the right to shape your own institutions. It opposes the right of those institutions to shape you simply because of accreted power or gerontological status.”
– Karl Hess1
The libertarian ethic of non-aggression preserves the sovereignty of the individual – that no other person, or group of persons acting in concert, may initiate a physical incursion against your body or against the objects that comprise your property. In this sense you are, permanently, a free and independent being. On the other hand, it is an undeniable aspect of human history that we have grouped ourselves together into various forms of collective – states, nations, communities, congregations, businesses, families and so on – and that these collectives have taken on purposes and characteristics of their own that have served to subordinate the individual to the collective. Indeed, the meanings of these identities – their history, their traditions, their culture, and so on – and the passion that they can arouse suggests that they are far more than the sum of their individual parts. Take, for example, the unique splendour of the Lake District; the stirring words of the hymn “Jerusalem”; the pomp and circumstance of the Trooping of the Colour; or even something as straightforward as sitting in a pub with a pint of beer or munching on fish and chips. All of these things can arouse an overwhelming sense of pride for England and all things English. Surely these things are much greater than and should not be expected to yield to the whims of any one mere individual Englander, particularly when most of them have been around for centuries before him? Read more
The Moral Case Against Equality Before The Law
by Rev. Rory McClure
Feminists do not want the law to treat women equally to men. No sane or compassionate person would want men and women to be treated the equally before the law. Thankfully, our legal system does not practise equality before the law and hopefully it never will.
I know this sounds offensively absurd, but bear with me. You will agree with me. In the 2007 the Labour Peer, Baroness Cortson wrote the Cortson Report which made the case for maintaining and expanding the unequal status of women before the law. In it she recognised that women have “vulnerabilities.. which fall into three categories. First, domestic circumstances and problems such as domestic violence, child-care issues, being a single-parent; second, personal circumstances such as mental illness, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance misuse; and third, socio-economic factors such as poverty, isolation and unemployment. When women are experiencing a combination of factors from each of these three types of vulnerabilities, it is likely to lead to a crisis point that ultimately results in prison.” She goes on to argue that women must be punished less severely than men for the same crime because, “The biological difference between men and women has different social and personal consequences.” Read more
By CJay Engel
If ever there was a phrase that deserved more widespread repute in libertarian circles, it is the charming title “Tory Anarchist,” which Murray Rothbard— though not the first to apply it— gave to the likes of H.L. Mencken and Albert Nock in his book The Betrayal of the American Right. What he meant by this phrase, together with a case for its adoption today, are the themes of the present article. Read more