Planned Chaos: Introduction (Part 1 of 11)

by | Nov 1, 2008

The characteristic mark of this age of dictators, wars and revolutions is its anticapitalistic bias. Most governments and political parties are eager to restrict the sphere of private initiative and free enterprise. It is an almost unchallenged dogma that capitalism is done for and that the coming of all-round regimentation of economic activities is both […]

The characteristic mark of this age of dictators, wars and revolutions is its anticapitalistic bias. Most governments and political parties are eager to restrict the sphere of private initiative and free enterprise. It is an almost unchallenged dogma that capitalism is done for and that the coming of all-round regimentation of economic activities is both inescapable and highly desirable.

Nonetheless capitalism is still very vigorous in the Western Hemisphere . Capitalist production has made very remarkable progress even in these last years. Methods of production were greatly improved. Consumers have been supplied with better and cheaper goods and with many new articles unheard of a short time ago. Many countries have expanded the size and improved the quality of their manufacturing. In spite of the anticapitalistic policies of all governments and of almost all political parties, the capitalist mode of production is still fulfilling its social function in supplying the consumers with more, better and cheaper goods.

It is certainly not a merit of governments, politicians and labor union officers that the standard of living is improving in the countries committed to the principle of private ownership of the means of production. Not offices and bureaucrats, hut big business deserves credit for the fact that most of the families in the United States own a motorcar and a radio set. The increase in per capita consumption in America as compared with conditions a quarter of a century ago is not an achievement of laws and executive orders. It is an accomplishment of businessmen who enlarged the size of their factories or built new ones.

One must stress this point because our contemporaries are inclined to ignore it. Entangled in the superstitions of stateism and government omnipotence, they are exclusively preoccupied with governmental measures. They expect everything from authoritarian action and very little from the initiative of enterprising citizens. Yet, the only means to increase well-being is to increase the quantity of products. This is what business aims at.

It is grotesque that there is much more talk about the achievements of the Tennessee Valley Authority than about all the unprecedented and unparalleled achievements of American privately operated processing industries. However, it was only the latter which enabled the United Nations to win the war.

The dogma that the State or the Government is the embodiment of all that is good and beneficial and that the individuals are wretched underlings, exclusively intent upon inflicting harm upon one another and badly in need of a guardian, is almost unchallenged. It is taboo to question it in the slightest way. He who proclaims the godliness of the State and the infallibility of its priests, the bureaucrats, is considered as an impartial student of the social sciences. All those raising objections are branded as biased and narrow-minded. The supporters of the new religion of statolatry are even more fanatical and intolerant than were the Mohammedan conquerors of Africa and Spain .

History will call our age the age of the dictators and tyrants. We have witnessed in the last years the fall of two of these inflated supermen. But the spirit which raised these knaves to autocratic power survives. It permeates textbooks and periodicals, it speaks through the mouths of teachers and politicians, it manifests itself in party programs and in plays and novels. As long as this spirit prevails there cannot be any hope of durable peace, of democracy, the preservation of freedom or of a steady improvement in the nations’ economic well-being.  [1]

Notes:

1. The term democracy, as I use it, means a system of government under which those ruled are in a position to determine, directly by plebiscite or indirectly by election, the mode in which the legislative and executive power is to be exercised and the Selection of the supreme executives. Democracy is the very opposite of the Bolshevist, Fascist and Nazi principle according to which a group of self-appointed vanguardists has the right and the duty to seize the reins o f government by violent action and to impose its own will upon the majority.

This article is serialized from the book Planned Chaos (1947) by the great 20th century economist who was too good to receive a Noble Prize: Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973). (c) 1995 Bettina Bien Greaves. All rights reserved.

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Ludwig Von Mises (1881-1973) was the 20th century's foremost economist. He was the author of Human Action, Socialism, and a dozen other works.

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