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From the Pen of David Horowitz: November 3, 2009

November 3, 2009

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Even after the collapse of the socialist era, the marginalization of conservative ideas is so pervasive that the conservatives whose ideas were vindicated by the gotterdamerung remain hopelessly obscure. As far back as 1922, Ludwig von Mises wrote a 500-page treatise predicting that socialism would not work because socialist theorists had failed to recognize economic realities that would eventually bankrupt the future they were creating: the indispensability of markets for allocating resources and of private property for providing the incentives that would drive the engines of social wealth. Socialists, he wrote, showed no inclination to take seriously the problems their schemes created: “Without troubling about the fact that they had not succeeded in disproving the assertion of the liberal school that productivity under socialism would sink so low that want and poverty would be general, socialist writers began to promulgate fantastic assertions about the increase in productivity to be expected under socialism.”

As close as any analysis could, Von Mises’ warning anticipated the next 70 years of socialist history. Under the Soviet Union’s socialist plans, the Kremlin rulers were indeed unable allocate resources rationally, to accommodate innovation, or to replace the profit motive with viable social incentives. As a result, the socialist economy was unable to keep abreast of technological changes that would sweep the capitalist West into a new post-industrial era, or induce sufficient economic growth to feed its own people. Even grain — an export staple of Russia’s pre-revolutionary economy — was perpetually in shortage after the Bolsheviks took power, a direct consequence of collectivization. The economic effects of socialist order were exactly as Von Mises had predicted — to generalize poverty, while preventing Soviet Russia from entering the new electronic era and competing technologically with the West.

But although Soviet developments dramatically confirmed Von Mises’ prediction, his intellectual contributions are as unknown in the culture of the post-Communist West as they were before the Communist fall. And there has not been a single attempt by progressive intellectuals of the Left to re-visit his critique. Or to come up with answers that would justify their continuing radical faith. Von Mises’ work should be a central text of academic discourse, but instead is absent from the academic canon, as if it had never been written.

The Politics of Bad Faith

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14 Comments
  1. Jonathan permalink
    November 3, 2009 4:18 am

    Unfortunately, what we have at this time are many people on the other side of the coin who do not want to address the shortcomings of our own capitalist system. For one, I think the last few decades has demonstrated that the free market nation can be laissez faire in the factories and shops, but it cannot afford to be laissez faire about ethics, morality and the enforcement of law and order.

    Capitalism cannot be properly and beneficially bestowed upon the people without the constant reinforcement of American conservative virtues. Namely thrift, responsibility and a sense of duty to one’s family and community that places Christian charity and beneficence above personal avarice and greed.

    Capitalism is a system of economics for moral people. And part of the reason why we have now lost 50 percent of the American people to socialist values is because conservatives never elucidate these values. They take it for granted that everyone understands these underpinnings intrinsically.

    • November 3, 2009 12:38 pm

      Excellent comment. The Italian communist Antonio Gramsci also understood that viable capitalism rested on a social infrastructure and families infused with Christian values. Gramsci advocated a slow motion communist revolution based on an insidious subversion of this ethos. His disciples (the so-called Frankfurt School) set the wheels in motion in the universities (Marcuse, et. al.); the touchy-feely world of “humanistic psychology” (Maslow, et. al.) and sexual licentiousness (Kinsey,et.al.). Joyce Milton has written of this in “The Road to Malpsychia”.

  2. therealend permalink
    November 3, 2009 5:20 am

    Unfairness doesn’t work anywhere. Either in a Socialist or Capitalist economy. But Marxism, inspite of it’s allure, doesn’t work period. It failed for good reason, one of which is that everybody would have to be of the same mindset, like bees in a hive. Humans are not worker bees.

    When capitalism runs into a problem, out come the assertions that capitalism is a failure and socialism is the answer, or better to have an economy run by a panel of experts from Harvard. However, there is no panel that can beat the 200 million people who are experts on their own livelyhoods. Which bureaucrat is willing to stay at work 10 to 18 hours a day to make things work out for somebody else compared to a small business owner who would be willing to do that in order to get ahead? I have to bet on the 200 million expert consumers over any elite panel.

  3. John Davidson permalink
    November 3, 2009 7:20 am

    It is a clear fact that those people we chose to monitor our constitutional rights have chosen to join hands as one elitist governiong body that only sought to maintain their own welfare and forgot the fact that it is through the people that this security evolves.

    Now is the time to shake their secure foundation as they have place ours in harms way.

  4. Robert Wargas permalink
    November 3, 2009 8:35 am

    I can guarantee you that most left-wing professors have never even heard of Ludwig von Mises, let alone read his huge tomes like *Socialism* and *Human Action*. Robert Heilbroner, a once-socialist economist, admitted Mises was right in a 1989 New Yorker article–as the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet empire crumbled–but his humility did not catch on.

    David Horowitz mentioned this another time, but it’s worth repeating: that the best conservative/libertarian thinkers are completely foreign to the Left. People like Mises, Hayek, Thomas Sowell, and Milton Friedman are NEVER discussed, because if they were, the entire leftist facade would be destroyed.

    To their credit, left-wing professors DO sometimes mention Ayn Rand–usually to insult her. But most of the time they’ve never read her either.

    • Jonathan permalink
      November 3, 2009 1:04 pm

      “–as the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet empire crumbled–but his humility did not catch on.”

      I must differ with this somewhat.

      China learned the lesson well, and Castro did too, on a slightly smaller scale.

      They’ve gone into the business of fascism? At least partly?

      • Robert Wargas permalink
        November 3, 2009 9:02 pm

        I was talking about sheltered academic radicals, not foreign governments. Rational people generally understand that collectivism is a hoax.

  5. guest permalink
    November 3, 2009 8:46 am

    You know who was better than Ludwig von Mises? Richard von Mises. Conservative or liberal, can’t we all agree that mad scientists are the ones who really rule this world?

  6. SanePerson permalink
    November 3, 2009 10:27 am

    You can download works of von Mises at the Ludwig von Mises Institute website: http://mises.org/literature.aspx?action=author&Id=280. I’m reading one of his books on my ipod.

  7. Jonathan permalink
    November 3, 2009 1:07 pm

    Capitalism didn’t fail. We failed to be good citizens, and subsequently our government failed in its duty.

  8. canucklehead permalink
    November 3, 2009 7:29 pm

    Very true.. I am one of the few people I know who’s actually read Ludwig Von Mises and he’s brilliant. I was lucky enough to find it amongst my father’s books… from his flirtation with Libertarian politics and interest in Ayn Rand.

    It should be required reading… I read the Communist Manifesto as part of a course in University, I don’t know why they don’t have it in school curriculums. Well OK, I know why they don’t – but they should.

  9. W. S. E. Gewesen permalink
    November 4, 2009 11:08 pm

    A perfect example of left-wing/progressive economic thought is that of the vastly overrated Cass Sunstein, who presumes to write (echoing F. D. Roosevelt) in his book “The Second Bill of Rights, etc.” that economic laws do not fall from heaven but are made by men. I suppose that the idea reflects the Progressive enshrinement of positive law over natural law in the arena of constitutional thinking. To Sunstein and his accomplices, economic laws are on the same level as government regulation and are decreed to be whatever the ruling elite chooses them to be.

    In fact, however, economic law is a subset of natural law in that both are more akin to laws of science than to legislative/regulatory decrees. That is to say, they represent “the way things actually work” and, rather than being legislated, are discovered by extrapolating valid expectations of behavior (responses to various stimuli) from careful observation of actual phenomena. It is for that reason that von Mises titled his best-known work on economics simply “Human Action.”

    Thomas Sowell long ago characterized the Liberal/Progressive mindset as “the unconstrained vision” or — even better — “the vision of the anointed.” It is a worldview characterized by a monumental hubris (itself an indication of a small mind) dedicated to the proposition that “really smart people” are completely capable of managing the impossibly complex if they are only given enough unfettered power to control everybody else!

  10. Jonathan permalink
    November 5, 2009 6:02 am

    WSE said:

    “It is a worldview characterized by a monumental hubris (itself an indication of a small mind) dedicated to the proposition that “really smart people” are completely capable of managing the impossibly complex if they are only given enough unfettered power to control everybody else!”

    Well said. Only someone who is totally abnormal would think of doing such a thing anyway.

  11. November 5, 2009 12:44 pm

    “Only someone who is totally abnormal would think of doing such a thing anyway.”
    ****
    It’s been my belief that the liberal mind runs on a mixture of arrogance and ignorance. The radical leftist (e,g,; Obama) seasons this mixture with a large dose of narcissism. Facts, truth and logic to these people are like sunlight to Dracula. That’s why they hate conservatives.

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