Friday, April 13, 2012

Ralph Raico Rocks!

A new Ralph Raico book is out, Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School.

This is the kind of book that makes you feel sorry for the non-thinking, clueless masses. It is a scholarly book that will never make it on to an Oprah book reading list. Yet, for the the careful independent thinker, it is a rip roaring ride of scholarly discussion on the very important topic of liberalism, what it is and what it means, presented with dry wit and with no holds barred.

For me it was a page turner, I read it through in one night, deep into the night. In the book, Raico discusses the curious mystery of Carl Menger newspaper articles which are decidedly sympathetic to Sozialpolitik and, in contrast, the notebook of Crown Prince Rudolph (whom Menger tutored), which are clearly anti-state at every turn.

At another point, Raico takes on Friedrich Hayek and writes:
Unfortunately, an element of great confusion has been introduced into the study of French liberalism through some writings of F.A. Hayek, principally his influential essay, "Individualism; True and False'. In this rather baffling work, Hayek attempts to distinguish two traditions of Individualism (or liberalism)...Some might uncharitably suspect Hayek of terminal Anglophilia which tended to blind him to some obvious facts.
And lest you think this is Raico's only attempt at bold writing and the use of dry wit, consider this Raico comment about Mises (in a book dedicated to Mises):
On occasion, Mises goes so far as to trace the "psychological roots of anti-liberalism" to mental pathology. The scapegoating of the social system by those unable to cope with the reality of their relative failure in life is, Mises claims, a mental disorder that psychiatry has so far neglected to classify. Engaging in a bit of volunteer psychiatric nosology, he ventures to label this condition "the Fourier complex"  (1985: 13-17), after the early socialist, Charles Fourier.  
But in addition to the wit of Raico that keeps you turning the pages for more, I consider Raico a Grand Master quotesmith. He is a master at the demolition of  incorrect ideas by placing a well selected quote at the exact spot where it will cause a bad idea to come crumbling down at freefall speed.

For example, Raico reminds us that the concept of class struggle started well before Marx, even though, as Raico writes, this "important chapter in the history of political thought has been virtually forgotten". How does Raico prove this? By carefully placing this quote from Marx, into his discussion on class struggle:
no credit is due me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggles between them, Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes.
How does Raico support his notion that intellectuals can easily be bought and paid for? With, of course, a very juicy quote. Raico writes:
For a less complimentary but more realistic view of the integrity of modern intellectuals we may turn to the memoirs of the German historian, Golo Mann (1991:534), who quotes from his diary of 1933: "18 May [Josef] Goebbels in front of a writers' meeting in the Hotel Kaiserhof: 'We [Nazis] have been reproached with not being concerned with the intellectuals. That was not necessary for us. We knew quite well: if we first have power, then the intellectuals will come on their own.' Thunderous applause---from the intellectuals."
In this book, Raico puts the spotlight on Hayek, Mises, Menger, Keynes and names that you may not be as familiar with, Eugen Richter and Arthur Ekitch, all from the perspective of what true liberalism is and why it is important. It is a great and scholarly ride and a must read, that is, if great thinking and great historical analysis are important to you.


  1. I have my copy...and after this review it's bumped to next on my list.

  2. This is my first ever blog comment, I just wanted to say that I completely agree, this book is fantastic and everyone should immediately purchase it. I bought it on a whim. I thought it would be boring or hard to get in to but it was neither. I read it over Easter break pretty much nonstop and immediately got online to purchase his Great Wars book. This is the kind of book you want to give as gifts to people who have no clue about classical liberal ideas or the Austrian school's intellectual heritage (or dismiss the ideas without giving them serious thought). It's the type of book that makes you wish you could be a scholar so you could write wonderfully coherent and hard-hitting essays like this. Well done!

  3. "This is the kind of book that makes you feel sorry for the non-thinking, clueless masses. It is a scholarly book that will never make it on to an Oprah book reading list."

    Bob, I love your blog! But this comment is so problematic. I used to be a teacher in Maryland (in independent self financed schools that I started) I now work in North Carolina... The clueless masses are our people that we must lead! We cannot condescend to them as unread. The rhetorical disadvantage for the liberty movement is huge! The masses of folks have tee vees... but the worst thing is to blame the unintellectual for not being intellectual. It's like blaming a short guy for sucking at being a center in basketball... WE need to read the books, but we also need to lead people and translate for them, not just condescend to them like NY does... the elite Greeks focused on rhetoric because they knew they had to persuade the voters, but because the voters were unread and vulgar, they did not write off the fact that they needed to persuade them!