Monday, September 18, 2017

How Should We Explain the Regulatory-Redistributive Manipulations in Society

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

My new article on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation is on, “Ludwig von Mises on Collectivist Fallacies and Interventionist Follies.”

For more than a century the world has been in the grip of the ideological pretentions and political practices of social engineers and political paternalists of many stripes, with disastrous consequences for tens of millions around the world.  Why?

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ludwig von Mises’s 1957 volume, “Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution,” and within its pages answers may be found to explain the
faulty foundations and horrific results from the attempted implementation of various collectivist utopias and regulatory-redistributive manipulations in society.

The underlying premises of behind all these stream and moderate collectivist catastrophes, Mises explains, is a rejection and denial of philosophical, methodological and political-economic individualism. The individual is seen and treated as an inconsequential and passive element that is part of and confined within a wider social collective.

This has spawned “philosophies of history” such as Karl Marx’s in which reality belongs to technological and “class struggle” forces that dictate and control the destiny of mankind and every individual within it; with arrogant revolutionary “vanguards” presuming to play the “mid-wife” to the “laws of history,” with fanatical certainty of knowing what is good for humanity and seeing that mankind get it whether that mankind is wise enough to know it should want it or not.

Lost in this is the actual reality that “history” is the composite story of human actions, as individuals select ends, choose means, and act to bring more desired circumstances into reality. It is the story of the intended and unintended social, economic and political consequences from human actions, for good or ill. The only “meanings” to be found in history are those reflecting the dreams, desires, decisions and actions of multitudes of interacting individuals. There is no Holy Grail of mankind’s “destiny.”

And matching this, Mises explained, are those who deny any coordinating order and patterns in the interactive processes of human activities, and therefore implicitly deny the reality and significance of the “laws of economics,” of supply and demand, that originate out of those interactions of multitudes of individual market participants. Thus, numerous social engineers and political paternalists arrogantly presume that they may introduce any intervention or redistribution into the social and economic world with no effects other than the ones they dreamily desire. The real results from these interventionist policies are chaotic imbalances, distortions, and perverse incentives that bring countless negative consequences for society.

These insights and many others in Ludwig von Mises’s “Theory and History” make the volume as relevant today as when it first was published 60 years ago.


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