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Gabriel J. Zanotti: La filosofía política de Ludwig von Mises (page 109)

This is a big topic, but one that should not be limited to Austrian economists. However, since that is how it is couched here, here is my opinion FWIW.

Hayek takes his conception of liberty from the Scottish Moral Philosophers (Hume, Ferguson, Smith, Hutchinson), and later from some of the 19th century British legal scholars. It is largely conservatively deontological, anti-rationalist, and sceptical. It says that moral action may be judged by adherence to a traditional rule, even if adherance to the rule may prohibit some expressions of positive liberty by the individuals within a society, and may not even necessarily appear rational on a cause and effect basis which can be easily seen.

However, without these "rules" of morality which often differ from those of our gut instincts (evolutionalry vestiges of by-gone simpler society when men knew their neighbors), a society would not form and coordinate. Nevertheless, many individual rule followers will experience repression, and even might be harmed by the enforcement of these rules. Hayek and the Scottish Moral philosophers deny that human agents posess the knowledge to derive perfect rules governing complex social orders like some kind of Newtonian physics problem, and that designed rules and morals will often not result in the consequences intended by the designers.

On the other side is Rothbard. Sqaurely a radical rationalist. He takes his inspiration from Catesian rationalists, and Hobbs, Rousseau, Bentham, and J.S. Mill. He opposes Smithian economics and moral philosophy. Those in the Rothbard camp are not rule utilitarians, but radical rational individualist utilitarians (though most deny they are utiltarians at all) who hold that moral acts are first and foremost rational acts, and can only be justified through our perfect reason. Man is first and foremost a happiness (pleasure maximizing)seeking individual, and codified traditional rules often repress the pursuit of ultimate(happiness).

To this camp of thinkers, the irrational is immoral, and therefore morality is derived like a cartesian construction. The higher self is the rational creature who has been liberated from the irrationality of the traditional social institutions which repress pleasure-seeking and intrapersonal freedoms. The market is a wonderful free for all, where everyone uses everyone else to boost his own happiness, just as long as negative liberties are enforced. Morality is often judged by the end result of the action, not the intent. The market is the ultimate arbitrator of morality, since it brings the greatest pleasure to the greatest number.

Squarely in the middle is Mises. Mises lives in the philosophical middle ground of Immanuel Kant. His philosophy attempts to reconcile the Scottish Moral Philosopers and continental philosopers. We see rule utilitarianism. Morality is judged by adherance to a rule which is judged good if it can rationally be shown to bring the greater good.

That is my take. I think the Rand/Rothbard brand, while glorifying personal liberty, is ultimately dangerous to interpersonal liberty and the emergence of social order.

I side with Buchanan (and Hayek), that complete laisez faire (radical individualism) means death to liberty and the market. It brings about a backlash of totalitarianism. Markets function, but only under the framework of good rules, and these rules must be undergirded by a type of deontological morality. Rules must be enforced by some infringement on unconstrained liberty.

On final thought on the article. The author curiously lumps Friedman and Hayek together. I wonder if this betrays a philosophical misunderstanding about how vastly different were the justifications of Hayek's and Friedman's classical liberalism. I think this was a rather sloppy grouping in the paper.

K Sralla,

With regards to groupings, although not specifically Friedman and Hayek, read Long's response essay. Long's essay deals mostly with Rothbard, Mises, Rand, and the classical liberals mentioned in the opening essay, but Long's response is great.

Reaction essay:
"Let’s Reject the Purity Test"
by Alexander McCobin
April 9th, 2012

Waw, Mises and Rothbard dehomogenized.

I don't like all the morality talk from Hayek. It is the weakest part of his work. It is a "Which came first, the chicken or the salmonella?" problem. In the end you conclude: we need moral people for capitalism to function, people are immoral, we need to create a new man. Where did I see that before?

I'll have to read the rest of the articles.

I agree that it is a grave mistake to lump Mises and Rothbard together when it comes to normative questions. However, I want to add that Mises - from a philosophical standpoint - was no rule utilitarian. There are several instances where he speakes out against utilitarianism, and what is even more important any form of normative reasoning.As an economist he wants - in the tradition of Max Weber - to withhold himself from any value judgements.

I like to think of Mises as an economic advisor, who tells the conservative, the socialst and the liberal - if you want to reach your respective goals, then you need to rely on the market economy. This kind of reasoning is instrumental and not utilitarian.
This interpreatation of Mises standpoint is defended in the book "Ludwig von Mises als Sozialphilosoph".

Mises is confused about what label to give his social philosphy. He throws around terms like utilitarian and (in early work) eudaemonist. I think the best term for him is rule-consequentialist. But he is also a rationalist in the sense that he believes that we can know the best social rules and their consequences explicitly. So he is a rationalist and rule-consequentialist. (This is my own position too, btw.)

Apparently, I'm reading different texts than Niko and JF. Hayek accepts humans as they are; there is no New Man in Hayek. Mises was explicitly utilitarian. I don't see how there's any ambiguity of interpretation on these two points.

Pete is right to put Mises' "Ricardian Law of Association" at the center of Mises' system. Right. And you see the same principle clearly in the first chapter of Smith's WoN. Society is about exchange and division of labor. In this sense, the "foundation" of society is pretty "low" and humble; it is nothing "lofty" like "culture," "meaning" or, if I may be a bit tendentious, the "Folk." That matters IMHO.

I think Mises' best summation of his social beliefs was when he wrote something to the effect of "Anything that upholds the social order is ethical; anything that impedes the social order is unethical." I believe this is in one of the essays in "Causes of the Economic Crisis," but not 100% sure.

Mises seems to believe that "the social order" means different things to different societies at different points in time. He takes this as the Aristotelian "final cause," and offers no further elaboration. To him, the key issue is whether people will freely determine the social order via free association and voluntary exchange, or whether it is going to be handed down to us by central planners. To this, he asks, "What is the best way to satisfy the means as stated?" and concludes that free markets handle this job best.

I'm not sure what to "call that." I don't know how it compares to Rothbard, but when it comes to Rand, I think people are misguided by her polemics. Rand basically says this: Anything that supports life is good, anything that impedes life is evil; Reason is an individual's best means to support his/her own life, therefore reason is good; Therefore irrationality is evil. From there, everything else she concludes becomes a matter of determining whether or not something is rational, and if it isn't, then it's evil.

Because both Mises and Rand held dialectics in such high esteem, their similarities outnumber their differences. But in saying so, I must point out that Rand's ideas are largely "Mises-Lite." She came to similar conclusions, but in a much sloppier and less concise way. I think Mises was better-studied in both history and philosophy than Rand. He made points in a single sentence that often took Rand pages to elaborate.

The only other thing I will add is that a lot of Austrian School thinkers read Human Action and stop there. I have learned more about Mises' world view by reading "Omnipotent Government," "Epistemological Problems of Economics," and "Causes of the Economic Crisis" than I did from either "Human Action" or "Liberalism."

I'm no expert, but the more I read, the more convinced I am that there is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between Mises and Rothbard.

Rothbardians became incensed on behalf of the by then dead Mises when Hayek criticized his a priorism in his Preface to a late edition of Socialism. However, I must agree with those who see a lot of daylight between Rothbard and Mises, and I see even more daylight between Mises and some of the Rothbard followers who are at the institute named for LvM.

Rand, Hayek, Rothbard and Mises all saw the need for a moral justification for free markets because socialists quickly retreat to moral arguments when their practical ones fail. They all came up with different moral arguments for free markets, but I think the classic natural law (not Rothbard’s, but Aquinas through Grotius to Pufendorf) arguments still hold up the best.

What Barkley said.

Sralla: "On the other side is Rothbard. Sqaurely a radical rationalist. He takes his inspiration from Catesian rationalists, and Hobbs, Rousseau, Bentham, and J.S. Mill"

Nonsense. He attacks any and each of these and takes his inspiration from the Spanish scholastics and French liberals such as Say, Bastiat, Turgot, Cantillon. There are many other things between the earth and heaven not fitting into your comic book dichotomy Scottish enlightenment/radical rationalism.

I am not aware of any criticism from Hayek to Mises in the preface to Socialism. He said that he couldn't follow him to the a priori stuff (but no criticism) and provided a quote about rationalism which bothered him, but he didn't said why and he didn't offered an alternative (he probably had "tradition" and "evolved rules" in mind). That's what I remember.

And the "incensement" started before that preface.

I have often argued that the very notion of utilitarianism and consequentialism tends to be void. Consequences do not judge themselves, and utility is subjective, so the answer to all questions is that it depends on whose utility and on who judges the consequences. Hardly a moral theory (normative) or a social theory (positive).

Mises held a positive theory of institutions in which Ricardo's Law of Association, the collective noun for all positive-sum games in social interactions, guarded by good moral and intellectual ideas, far-sightedness and a minimal state, and insufficiently opposed by the opposite Malthus Law, the collective noun for negative-sum games, were enough to achieve social peace and prosperity.

He was not much interested in morals. He just said that morals shall uphold the basic structure of institutions, otherwise the latter are doomed (HA, "Reflections on the fall of the Roman Empire"). He believed that by spreading the word of positive-sum games liberalism could triumph against its foes. His interpretation of natural law is merely positive: he said that they anticipated rational economic thinking (T&H).

There is little in common between Rothbard and Mises, and the differences between Hayek and Mises are grossly overstated. The main difference is that Hayek was interested in the details and not on the general framework, so that Mises traced the path and Hayek paved the way. Hayek, besides, was a horrible writer with an exceedingly involuted style of writing which led to confusion, especially in economics (his later philosophical books are better).

Rothbard's important contribution to political thought was to put the role of power back in the center of political theory and philosophy. Mises had no theory of the state or of legal systems (although the latter have been built on misesian foundations by Leoni, who influenced Hayek).

Power has been eschewed from political thought in the XX century. Thinkers like Jouvenel and Pareto have been forgotten. "Liberal" political thought is based on a naive conceptualization of politics in which coercion and power play no role and the state is seen as a benevolente demi-god whose only aim is to realize an abstract standard of justice. It will never be too late for this naive way of looking at politics to be forgotten.

I'm at fault in looking for an important contribution to political and social thought made by Rand. I haven't read much of her, but what I read wasn't profound or interesting.


What Roger said, :-).

There may have been "incensement" prior to that preface, but an important group of Rothbardian self-styled Misesians did indeed take considerable umbrage over the Preface, clearly mild as it was. It definitely raised the level of whatever incensement already existed substantially.

Happiness is intrinsic, it 's an internal thing. By yzi11, Levels of Happiness are highest when people are young and when they are old.

Benjamin,Just as it's unfair to toss out one-size-fits-all cztoacaerihatirns of New Keynesians due to the diverse beliefs of those who self-identify as New Keynesian, it's unfair to do the same regarding Austrians. Many economists sympathetic to market monetarism identify as Austrian or Austrian-influenced. ( I myself am a graduate student at George Mason University and have no problem identifying as Austrian.) In particular, there is a significant difference in worldview between Mises Institute Austrians and Austrians at GMU. Please don't lump all Austrians under one heading; it's ignorant at best and dishonest at worst.

Dustin, LvMI is clearly very Rothbardian. In terms of GMU I would just say GMU is much dotmagic and therefore also more welcoming to Hayek.I remember reading George's comment on Rothbard as well. Frankly, I think he was a bit to hard on Rothbard, but I do agree that Rothbard's strength is certainly not his monetary theory.Man, Economy and State is certainly less of a fantastic book than for example Human Action and my general view is that Rothbard attempt to come up with his own version of a standard microeconomic textbook.

Alex, I would certainly agree with you view. There are clear denierffce among Austrians . I am personally influenced by Austrian thinking. Furthermore, some Free Banking theorists like Larry White would gladly say they are Austrian or Austrian inspired and the economics of the Free Banking school and the Market Monetarists in my view is very close.Furthermore, I think the denierffce between LvMI Austrians and GMU Austrians should be acknowledged.

, the Fed needs to release a prtucie of Ben Bernanke, with his hand on the lever of a printing press. The caption: :Think I can't cause growth and inflation? Go ahead. Make my day. Bernanke ought to print money until the plates melt. Crickey, we probably ought to toss bags of Ben Franklins out on the street at night.

The contrast beeetwn classic liberalism and current conservatism may be debated on many levels, some even logical. But it is difficult to get enthused about intellectual debates when the godfathers of conservatism (aka Amway/Alticor) apparently have ascribed to new definitions of "compassion" and "less government. That is, Alticor's recent request of the City of Grand Rapids Commission that the company be given gazillion dollar tax breaks to construct a new hotel in downtown Grand Rapids (according to a company spokesperson, the project would not be economically "viable" without government funding) has drawn the ire of an entertaining adversary; another GR hotelier-carpet magnate whose largest hotel would have its view of the Grand River obstructed by the Alticorians.At a time when Grand Rapids public schools are financially being forced to model themselves after Benton Harbor, the irony of the "free marketeers" trying to logically explain why they should be entitled to the same kinds of funds as welfare moms (but the food stamps have a lot more zeros) is trumped only by audacity of strong-arming the City Commission on the one hand (don't forget those promised jobs for housekeeping and don't forget the nearby restauranteurs are all in favor, capitalist all without doubt!) and then all but announcing that next year the Alticor scion (Dick DeVos) will run for Governor of Michigan on a less government, more compassion platform.It is astounding that intentional decisions of hypocrisy can on occasion make even Jennifer Granholm look relatively consistent.JPM

Corporate welfare is not a coiesrvatnve principle. Corporate welfare is a statist principle in common with fascism and communism.This is unconscionable, and Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Barry Goldwater, Ludwid von Mises, Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman would be the first to say it - while they simultaneously pointed out that the public schools' problems result from an identical statist impulse.Absent an arbitrary power of taxation, neither would be an issue.

I was 22, and I'm embarrassed to read it now. Not the most feiocltius prose I've produced. (And it's weird that I describe Weirton as democratic late in the review after going out of my way earlier in the article to note the limits to the workers' power there. Given subsequent events at the company, I should have stuck with the less optimistic adjectives.)

Ron is the only hope to restore the foaudntion of classical economic prosperity. Not Shaw he’s into Henry George. Using Type & Shadow of Mormon Vision explained as parable-: There is a wide gulf or river between the mainline Neo-cons and constitutional Libertarians of Ron and his followers who hold to the iron rod that leads to the tree of life (the constitution). On the other hand Mormon-opoly Mitt and the rest of the Neo-cons stand in the great and spacious mansion that appears to float with no foaudntions, they party on oblivious to the financial and economic crisis in their fine clothes, pridefully boasting and speaking smooth and flattering things to their guests who appear to be in the gesture of pointing their finger and mocking Ron and his followers who meekly hold to the Rod of Iron of truth, that made the Republic great.

GregThanks.Regarding Murry Rothbard.Yes. That's what I thought. That's csnnisteot with all I've found in the material I've read of his (also from those who knew him well enough to write with authority about him). Perhaps I'm missing something but I was not under the impression he advocated the soviet system or the soviet leadership for that matter.He certainly was correct about what would happen to socialism, as was Von Mises. Regarding the Cold War. Lately I've been reading some more about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It is appalling to find the level of cynicism of the US president and senior members of the administration of the time. Provocation was the intention. They got the result they sought and it played well for the home audience (which was the objective). They certainly ended up with blood on their hands (and admitted as much in private). Political PR games paid for in people's lives. Funny thing is that the US Govt ensured the soviet govt would continue to survive for decades by propping it up with intergovernmental welfare (grain, gold etc). All this during the coldest times of the cold war! Hypocracy?LGM

Please get a tag line.Happy?I'm interested in this bnesusis of Rothbard supporting the Soviets. What was the situation there?Basically, he thought the fear of Communism was overblown, that it would disintegrate on its own (socialism can't calculate), and that the enormous resources expended in defense against the "Soviet threat" were a waste and an unnecessary provocation. Of course he had nothing but contempt for the Soviet system, but in the spirit of "you're either with us or against us", lack of support for US militarism is classified by some as support for the bad guy du jour (Islamic fundamentalists today, Communists then)

Rothbard was very smart and right about many things but he beevield in libertarian anarchism which does not work in the real world.And you know this from experience? :)No. Not by my estimate. But of course, you're a Randian...Randians are notorious for hating Rothbard (no doubt for showing them up)

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