Liberty & Property

Economic illiteracy shows why too many people confuse capitalism with corporatism. Democratic socialism, as popularized by Senator Bernie Sanders, garnered enough support as it did by Millennials because they failed to realize that central planning does not solve the economic calculation problem. Prices, on the other hand, does solve this problem, yet, the disregard for property rights suggests cognitive impairment, especially when you consider that such antipropertarians violate argumentation ethics through their advocacy for socialism.

 

 

This short book by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises nicely lays out the propertarian ethic underlying property rights. He explains “voting with your wallet” thusly:

 

“The market process is a daily repeated plebiscite, and it ejects inevitably from the ranks of profitable people those who do not employ their property according to the orders given by the public. But business, the target of fanatical hatred on the part of all contemporary governments and self-styled intellectuals, acquires and preserves bigness solely because it works for the masses…[t]he shortcoming of nineteenth-century historians and politicians was that they failed to realize that the workers were the main consumers of the products of industry.”

 

Venture capitalists and independent investors are routinely vilified by central planners and welfare statists as a matter of course. Mises continues:

 

“However this unprecedented enrichment of the masses were merely a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. Its main achievement was the transfer of economic supremacy from the owners of land to the totality of the population. The common man was no longer a drudge who had to be satisfied with the crumbs that fell from the tables of the rich.”

 

In some ways this reminds me of what Randy Vining said about how the fruits of the Industrial Revolution ought to be liberty, and in that liberty, individuals will have the chance to discover who they really are. Mises also said that:

 

“This radical change was reflected in the emphasis laid by business on markets. What business needs first of all is markets and again markets. This is the watch-word of capitalistic enterprise. Markets, that means patrons, buyers, consumers. There is under capitalism one way to wealth: to serve the consumers better and cheaper than other people do.”

 

Obviously, this is seldom present in the current so-called “mixed” economy, which is largely fascist in character, where profits are privatized yet losses are socialized. Oligopolies seldom care about your opinion of how they do business, unless you’re an activist shareholder with enough stake in the corporation to force upper management and the board of directors to do what you want (boycotts rarely work to achieve larger strategic goals because they inherently rely on the collectivistic theory of critical mass, and so their best utility for individualists is more of a matter of taking a principled stand because it’s the right thing to do, not with the realistic expectation that a multinational corporation’s behavior is going to change for the better simply due to the fact that you refuse to buy their products).

When it comes to political ideology, Mises is a classical liberal; in other words, a minarchist. He says:

 

“Government is a necessary institution, the means to make the social system of cooperation work smoothly without being disturbed by violent acts on the part of gangsters whether of domestic or of foreign origin. Government is not, as some people like to say; a necessary evil; it is not an evil, but a means, the only means available to make peaceful human coexistence possible. But it is the opposite of liberty. It is beating, imprisoning, hanging. Whatever a government does it is ultimately supported by the actions of armed constables.” [emphasis added]

 

Thomas Paine described government as a necessary evil at best, and an intolerable one at worst; similarly, James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper #51 that had men been angels then government would simply be unnecessary. Comparatively, Mises is more authoritarian here than Madison or even Paine, yet he must have experienced some pretty volatile cognitive dissonance about a violent monopoly being the only way to manifest peaceful coexistence, which is, of course, total bunk. Mises also mentioned that:

 

“Government is essentially the negation of liberty. It is the recourse to violence or threat of violence in order to make all people obey the orders of the government, whether they like it or not. As far as the government’s jurisdiction extends, there is coercion, not freedom…[b]ut the fact remains that government is repression not freedom. Freedom is to be found only in the sphere in which government does not interfere. Liberty is always freedom from the government.” [emphasis added]

 

So, here you have a situation where an advocate of limited government knows that government itself is utterly opposed to human liberty, but then makes the absurd claim that without government, peace would be impossible, despite all the democide to the contrary! It’s like arguing that coercion makes humans more peaceful, when reality has demonstrated over and over again the complete opposite. If anything, coercion makes humans docile to tyrants, and what vonuism advocates for is to discover how to become less vulnerable to coercion so that subjugated docility to tyranny can be circumvented.

Oddly enough, Mises also illustrates the value of private property in securing liberty. He said:

 

“In the political sphere, there is no means for an individual or small group of individuals to disobey the will of the majority. But in the intellectual field private property makes rebellion possible. The rebel has to pay a price for his independence; there are in this universe no prizes that can be won without sacrifices. But if a man is willing to pay the price, he is free to deviate from the ruling orthodoxy or neo-orthodoxy.”

 

That sounds like vonuence to me (the process of achieving an invulnerability to coercion). Without legal interstices, private property can still be anything you homesteaded or voluntarily traded for, even if a phony “government” fails to respect your preexisting natural liberty and concomitant property rights. Mises writes:

 

“The social order that in abolishing private property deprives the consumers of their autonomy and independence, and thereby subjects every man to the arbitrary discretion of the central planning board, could not win the support of the masses if they were not to camouflage its main character. The socialists would have never duped the voters if they had openly told them that their ultimate end is to cast them into bondage. For exoteric use they were forced to pay lip-service to the traditional appreciation of liberty.” [emphasis added]

 

Again, this sounds exactly like what Bernie Sanders did to his supporters before they were betrayed by him via his concession speech to Hillary Clinton. Mises elaborates that:

 

“Private property of the material factors of production is not a restriction of the freedom of all other people to choose what suits them best. It is, on the contrary, the means that assigns to the common man, in his capacity as a buyer, supremacy in all economic affairs. It is the means to stimulate a nation’s most enterprising men to exert themselves to the best of their abilities in the service of all of the people.”

 

Well, duh, but then again, the soul-destroying horrors of conspicuous consumption easily tempts people to muse about the non-existent benefits of socialism, which is simply a product of corrupted thinking (“The answer to fascism is socialism,” and vice versa).

On a more investigative note, Anthony Migchels claims that the Austrian economists, including Mises, were financed by the Volker Fund, and by extension or implication, the Rockefeller Foundation, which therefore means that they are the controlled opposition to the central bankers. Even if that were unquestionably true, then how does Migchels explain the financial influence of fundamentalist Christians, as Stefan Molyneux as pointed out? Are you and I supposed to believe that the statist “Christians” are working in cahoots with the globalist banksters in financing the Austrian economists as part of, what? Some nefarious plot to further befuddle the American people into becoming more economically illiterate? Unless Migchels gives a more plausible narrative or better evidence, then I will remain skeptical of his claims that the Austrians are disingenuous activists, which at this point sounds more akin to patriot mythology than factual history.

Ludwig von Mises’ Liberty and Property is a cursory overview of the relationship between private property and individual liberty. Despite my criticisms about Mises’ political views, I truly respect the man’s legacy in opposing socialism from an axiomatically derived economic stance. Mises concludes that:

 

“The distinctive principle of Western social philosophy is individualism. It aims at the creation of a sphere in which the individual is free to think, to choose, and to act without being restrained by the interference of the social apparatus of coercion and oppression, the State. All the spiritual and material achievements of Western civilization were the result of the operation of this idea of liberty.”

 

Much like what Franz Werro mentioned about the dissimilar loci of trust in the institutions of the government and the market between Europeans and Americans, respectively, the American tradition of distrusting the institution of government is firmly in line with the concept of negative liberty; that is, the condition of an absence of coercion, which is more simply known as freedom. And if liberty is always freedom from the government, as Mises put it, then the advocates of liberty are not really polyarchists (“freedom of government” based on an individual’s consent to be governed), but rather, those who seek to live without rulers at all.

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