segunda-feira, julho 06, 2009

454) Ludwig Von Mises: Political Chances of Genuine Liberalism

The Political Chances of Genuine Liberalism (1951)

"The outlook of many eminent champions of genuine liberalism is rather pessimistic today. As they see it, the vitriolic slogans of the socialists and interventionists call forth a better response from the masses than the cool reasoning of judicious men.

The majority of the voters are just dull and mentally inert people who dislike thinking and are easily deceived by the enticing promises of irresponsible pied pipers. Subconscious inferiority complexes and envy push people toward the parties of the Left. They rejoice in the policies of confiscating the greater part of the income and wealth of successful businessmen without grasping the fact that these policies harm their own material interests. Disregarding all the objections raised by economists, they firmly believe that they can get many good things for nothing.

Even in the United States, people — although enjoying the highest standard of living ever attained in history — are prepared to condemn capitalism as a vile economy of scarcity and to indulge in daydreams about an economy of abundance in which everybody will get everything "according to his needs." The case for freedom and material prosperity is hopeless. The future belongs to the demagogues who know nothing else than to dissipate the capital accumulated by previous generations. Mankind is plunging into a return to the Dark Ages. Western civilization is doomed.

The main error of this widespread pessimism is the belief that the destructionist ideas and policies of our age sprang from the proletarians and are a "revolt of the masses." In fact, the masses — precisely because they are not creative and do not develop philosophies of their own — follow the leaders. The ideologies which produced all the mischief and catastrophes of our century are not an achievement of the mob. They are the feat of pseudoscholars and pseudointellectuals. They were propagated from the chairs of universities and from the pulpit, they were disseminated by the press, by novels and plays and by the movies and the radio. The intellectuals converted the masses to socialism and interventionism. These ideologies owe the power they have today to the fact that all means of communication have been turned over to their supporters and almost all dissenters have been virtually silenced.
What is needed to turn the flood is to change the mentality of the intellectuals. Then the masses will follow suit.

Furthermore, it is not true that the ideas of genuine liberalism are too complicated to appeal to the untutored mind of the average voter. It is not a hopeless task to explain to the wage earners that the only means to raise wage rates for all those eager to find jobs and to earn wages is to increase the per-head quota of capital invested. The pessimists underrate the mental abilities of the "common man" when they assert that he cannot grasp the disastrous consequences of policies resulting in capital decumulation. Why do all "underdeveloped countries" ask for American aid and American capital? Why do they not rather expect aid from socialist Russia?"

In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels asserted, 'The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which capitalism batters down all Chinese walls.' We may hope that these cheap prices will also batter down the highest of all Chinese walls, viz., those erected by the folly of bad economic policies.

To express such hopes is not merely wishful thinking.

(For the integral essay, click here)

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