All world history … presents … a contest … between the economic and the political means. …The state is an organization of the political means … forced by a victorious group of men on a defeated group, with the sole purpose of regulating the dominion of the victorious group over the vanquished. — Franz Oppenheimer
Hillary and Trump are not the only people waging Fall Campaigns.
If you watched the presidential debate Monday evening, you may despair that any libertarian perspective was entirely missing. And you justifiably fear that the outcome of November’s election will not be pretty, regardless of who prevails.
If you were waiting for Trump or Hillary to talk about significantly limiting state power, respecting state and local decision-making, restoring civil liberties, rolling back the regulatory leviathan, or getting out of the Middle East altogether, you’re still waiting. Because if political candidates excel at anything, it is hubris. Their pretense of knowledge gives way to the great mass delusion of our time, one shared by far too many Americans: that government is somehow omniscient.
That’s why the Mises Institute needs your support: to make the case against the dominant, i.e., political, narrative of our time. Our Fall Campaign, held all this week in honor of Mises’s September 29th birthday, is a chance for you to vote against politics and for liberty. It is your chance to vote for “None of the above.” And even $5 every month can make a difference.
It’s tempting to dismiss Hillary simply as deeply unlikeable and amoral. But her toxic brand of Wall Street cronyism, war cheerleading, and leftist social engineering represents the core of modern politics. Her absolute goal is to silence, even criminalize, voices that oppose the march of progressivism and globalism.
It’s also easy, and facile, for libertarians to dismiss Trump. As a populist he is ideologically unmoored, and prepared to use state power at will. While he almost single-handedly exposed Conservatism, Inc. as a fraudulent gravy train that fails to conserve anything, he is temperamentally wired for action, not forbearance — a dangerous quality in a politician.
Certainly we — as liberty-minded individuals — should have learned our lesson by now. Divisiveness is not a byproduct of politics, it’s a feature. Politics is designed to create hatred and unrest, as a prelude to justifying more and more state power over our lives.
After all, politics is war by other means. And war claims victims. War has winners and losers. Most of all, war has profiteers: namely the political class and its many clients, both in government and the nominally private sector.
Power is at the heart of all political action, no matter how many platitudes are offered by the candidates. And make no mistake: political power is personal power, a short cut to wealth and status for untold numbers of mediocrities at all levels of government.
There’s another way: real liberalism, the kind Ludwig von Mises exalted. Real liberalism boldly cedes power to the individual, to families, and to civil society. Real liberalism eschews force and state coercion. It is the antidote to power, the only moral and practical choice between what Oppenheimer termed “political means” and “economic means.”
Mises stood always for the latter. Born in 1881, he was raised in the magnificent culture that Donald Rumsfeld derided as “Old Europe.” But he saw the conflagration caused by Soviet Communism, Nazism, and two World Wars — all collectivist endeavors. And while Mises certainly believed the state had a limited role to play in protecting property and individual rights, one doubts whether he would see any redeeming value in today’s technocratic superstates. Surely he would find little to celebrate in the current political landscape.
The Mises Institute exists to carry forward the important work of Mises and other Austrian economists, but also to advance their vision of political liberty. And we need your help. While millions of dollars pour into political campaigns and DC think tanks, the Mises Institute is supported entirely by donors like you. More than 5 million people are on pace to visit mises.org in 2016. If each of them gave just $1, our fundraising would be simple! Won’t you please make your most generous donation to our Fall Campaign today?
If we embrace politics, willingly or reluctantly, we must accept the unholy consolidation of power in the hands of a few — the worst few. Oligarchy is not some anomaly, but rather the predictable result of our willingness to devolve power to Washington DC.
Politics and government won’t go away anytime soon. But the system is breaking down, and that affords us an opportunity to make the case for a better world: one organized more around markets and civil society, and less around the state.
Jeff Deist is the president of the Mises Institute.