OMNIPOTENT GOVERNMENT- The Rise of the Total State and Total War BY Ludwig von Mises. Preface: IN dealing with the problems of social and economic policies, the social sciences consider only one question whether the measures suggested are really suited to bringing about the effects sought by their authors, or whether they result in a state of affairs which from the viewpoint of their supporters is even more undesirable than the previous state which it was in tended to alter. The economist does not substitute his own judg ment about the desirability of ultimate ends for that of his fellow citizens. He merely asks whether the ends sought by nations, gov ernments, political parties, and pressure groups can indeed be at tained by the methods actually chosen for their realization. It is, to be sure, a thankless task. Most people are intolerant of any criticism of their social and economic tenets. They do not understand that the objections raised refer only to unsuitable methods and do not dispute the ultimate ends of their efforts. They are not prepared to admit the possibility that they might attain their ends more easily by following the economists advice than by disregarding it. They call an enemy of their nation, race, or group anyone who ventures to criticize their cherished policies. This stubborn dogmatism is pernicious and one of the root causes of the present state of world affairs. An economist who as serts that minimum wage rates are not the appropriate means of raising the wage earners standard of living is neither a labor baiter nor an enemy of the workers. On the contrary, in suggesting more suitable methods for the improvement of the wage earners material well-being, he contributes as much as he can to a genuine promotion of their prosperity. To point out the advantages which everybody derives from the working of capitalism is not tantamount to defending the vested interests of the capitalists. An economist who forty or fifty years ago advocated the preservation of the system of private property and free enterprise did not fight for the selfish class interests of the then rich. He wanted a free hand left to those unknown among his penniless contemporaries who had the ingenuity to develop all those new industries which today render the life of the common man more pleasant. Many pioneers of these industrial changes, it is true, became rich. But they acquired their wealth by supplying the public with motor cars, airplanes, radio sets, refrigerators, moving and talking pictures, and a variety of less spectacular but iv Omnipotent Government no less useful innovations. These new products were certainly not an achievement of offices and bureaucrats. Not a single technical improvement can be credited to the Soviets. The best that the Russians have achieved was to copy some of the improvements of the capitalists whom they continue to disparage. Mankind has not reached the stage of ultimate technological perfection. There is ample room for further progress and for further improvement of the standards of living. The creative and inventive spirit subsists notwithstanding all assertions to the contrary. But it flourishes only where there is economic freedom. Neither is an economist who demonstrates that a nation let us call it Thule hurts its own essential interests in its conduct of foreign-trade policies and in its dealing with domestic minority groups, a foe of Thule and its people...
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This is not von Mises’ best work. It dates from 1944 and uses a sort of history of Germany to remake the points against totalitarianism and socialism the he made more clearly in other works. The view ... Read full review