Yet another dead horse begging to be flogged

11 April 2007

Earlier, I had an opportunity to expres my dislike of von Mises’ ideas. Now, after persevering for a further couple of weeks and reading a dozen or more of his essays, I have finally given up in disgust.

Some salient points:

a.Mises’ insistence on the benevolent nature of laissez-faire would have been suspicious even back when he was writing the said essays: he must have been aware of the excesses of the American Gilded Age, which was, arguably, the closest this society has ever been to laissez-faire conditions. Now, with the inevitable result of the markets’ being taken over by an authoritarian segment of the population (which continue to pay at least lip-service to Mises’ ideas), it is ridiculous. (Mises’ followers would insist that the conditions of true laissez-faire have never obtained; in that their thinking is curiously religious and close to the Marxian insistences that the true conditions for communism have never obtained. Both are right, to a degree; both are irrational).

b.Mises’ deep inegalitarianism has nothing to do with anarchism, and is, really, deeply offensive to one like me who is a staunch believer in democracy and legal equality and, at least, an attempt to approximate political equality. (Social equality is something else entirely).

c.Mises’ ignorance of ecology is, perhaps forgivable: he was writing before the science had really taken off. But certain warning signs were visible already: Carson’s book was published during Mises’ lifetime and he could have checked it out. But the overwhelming majority of economists (with the exceptions, as earlier noted, of Schumacher and Daly) are woefully ignorant of ecology and the concept of closed system most likely is meaningless to them. Mises’ ignorance of biology and evolutionary theory (except for the useful–to him–canard of social darwinism) is less excusable. Modern synthesis was at full swing during the 40’s and the 50’s when a lot of these essays were produced, and he should not have been unaware of the evolutionary implications on human behaviour.

d.Finally, his attempts at metaphysics and ethical systems are–and I am not going to try to write a 200-page treatise on the subject–laughable.

Interestingly, while claiming the wrongness of Marxian and Keynesian ideas of economic development (I find much of interest in both, with quite a few reservations), Misesians are so completely blind to the failures of their own founder’s philosophy that the whole Austrian school is revealed as a religious enterprise that it is.

Sorry. Well, not really. Utter shite. Even Engels is better….;)


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