Personal Freedom Versus Political Paternalism

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Richard Ebeling via EpicTimes.com,

What is the role of government in society? This has been and remains the most fundamental question in all political discussions and debates. Its answer determines the nature of the social order and how people are expected and allowed to interact with one another – on the basis of either force or freedom.

The alternatives are really rather simple. Government may be narrowly limited to perform the essential task of protecting each individual’s right to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. Or it may be used to try to modify, influence, or dictate the conduct of the citizenry.

In the first case, the government is assigned the duty of impartial umpire, enforcing the societal rules against assault, murder, robbery, and fraud. All human relationships are to be based on mutual consent and voluntary association and exchange.

In the second case, government is an active player in people’s affairs, using its legitimized power of coercion to determine how the members of the society may live, work, and associate with each other. The government tries to assure certain outcomes or forms of behavior considered desirable by those who wield political authority.

More Government Means Increased Government Force

We need to remember what government ultimately is all about. The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises concisely explained this:

“Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, of gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.”

Under a political regime of liberty, each individual gives purpose and moral compass to his own life. He is treated as independent and self-governing; as long as he does not violate the rights of others he is sovereign over his own affairs. He may choose and act wisely or absurdly, but it is his life to live as he pleases.

If any of us – family members, friends, or just concerned fellow human beings – believe someone has chosen a path to perdition, we may try to persuade him to mend his ways. But we are expected to respect his freedom; we may not threaten or use force to make him change course.

Nor are we allowed to use political power to manipulate his options so that he does what we want him to do. Using taxation and regulation to induce conduct more to our liking is no less a political imposition than the sterner and more explicit police power.

The totalitarian systems of the twentieth century used the direct means of command and prohibition to get people to do what a Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, or Mao wanted done. In the interventionist-welfare state such brute means are normally shunned for the more indirect and subtle method of influencing people’s behavior through manipulation of incentives.

Government Control Through Choice Manipulation

Suppose an individual stands at a crossroads and is told he may choose which way to go. But in front of one of the roads is a government tollbooth that charges him a fee if he chooses that route; while in front of the other is a machine that dispenses a cash subsidy from the state, if the individual decides to follow that road. The choice is his, but the tradeoffs he faces have been manipulated to influence his decision.

In the 1950s the French coined a term for this type of political control: indicative planning. Through the use of fiscal and regulatory powers the government could get people to do what the politicians, bureaucrats, and various special-interest groups wanted, all the while maintaining the illusion that people were freely deciding where to invest or work or carry on their business.

We see this at work in America with government tax credits up to 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs to induce people to invest in solar panels on the roofs of their homes or office buildings; or the use of a similar tax credit of up to $7,500 if an individual purchases the Tesla electric automobile.

On the other hand, there is the use of taxes to induce less consumption or use of a product. A leading example of this is taxes on cigarettes. To the manufacturers’ retail prices are added “sin taxes” for indulging in a “vice” that others in society consider disgusting and/or an unnecessary health risk.

While in Missouri it is as low as merely 17 cents per pack, in New York City, the state and municipal taxes add an additional $5.85 per pack to the manufacturers’ retail price. Chicago has the highest of these sin taxes in the United States, with $6.16 in taxes added to the price of a pack of cigarettes.

The new code name for this type of political paternalism is “nudging.” Those in power and those among the behavioral “experts” who claim to know how individuals should better live their lives than when left on their own, do not assert the right to directly command people to live “right” and “rational” for themselves or society.

No, instead, they merely wish to influence and modify the incentives in society to get people to live and act in that better way, when if they were as enlightened as the government-advising experts those people would realize was the way they should and would live and act without the manipulation of the trade-offs people face in the marketplace.

The Danger from “Soft” Tyranny

We might call this a “soft” tyranny under which the commanding hand remains hidden behind an outward veneer seeming to respect the right of people to live and choose as they like and desire, but all the time manipulating the taxing and regulatory surroundings to see that the citizenry really ends up doing what the regulators and planners want them to do, or at least more it.

This form of “democratic despotism” over the conduct of the citizenry was, of course, explained, feared and warned about 180 years ago in Alexis de Tocqueville’s deservedly famous Democracy in America, written in the 1830s after an extended visit by the Frenchman to the United States:

“After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

 

“I have always believed that this sort of servitude, regulated, mild and peaceful, of which I have just done the portrait, could be combined better than we imagine with some of the external forms of liberty, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.”

There is a duel hubris in the thinking and attitude of such paternalistic “experts.” First, they presume to possess superior knowledge and insights greater than and superior to that of the ordinary citizen about how best people should live their lives. Second, they unreflectively presume that they, even though mere mortals as like the rest of us, do not suffer from similar behavior, psychological and social shortcomings, and therefore are intellectual demi-gods sitting atop a self-positioned political Mount Olympus far above the common man.

The Hubris of the Paternalist

Some psychological and behavioral scientists frequently claim that they are able to demonstrate the failings and conceptual and logical errors that the ordinary man commits, and on the basis of which they can assert a judgment concerning the “rationality” or “irrationality” of human beings and their choices and decision-making.

For instance, the person who consumes large quantities of “junk food” when they get anxious or depressed; or the cigarette smoker who can’t quit because he needs the “nicotine fix” during or after a rough day at the office; or the individual who doesn’t weigh on the basis of objective, rational statistical calculation whether it is really worth spending money on a lottery ticket; or a person who fails to logically plan for his own future retirement needs when they are in the 20s or 30s. And on-and-on.

The fact is that these and similar human “failings” have plagued mankind for all of its time on this earth. Read the accounts of the ancient Greeks written 2,500 years ago by those living among the people of that time, or the words of advice on good and ethical living given by the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, to his disciples and the political leaders of his time, also around 2,500 years ago.

It soon becomes clear that human nature, when compared and judged against some notion of a machine-like rational calculating device, appears to be stumbling, bumbling, and unfit for successful existence on this planet.

Human Improvement Without the Political Paternalists

Yet, here we are, the human race having survived in spite of its frailties, imperfections and less than perfect rationally logical thinking processes. Of course, we have become more intelligent, informed, and rational. We no longer pray to rain gods for precipitation or (well, at least, rarely!) throw human beings into volcanoes to appease the angered gods; we stopped burning people as witches or heretics (at least in the Western world for the most part); and we’ve learned to harness the forces of nature to serve man’s purposes (and often without too much of a screw up).

With only a limited degree of nagging and bullying, the number of people smoking in the U.S. has decreased from over 42 percent of the population in 1965 to barely more than 14 percent fifty years later in 2015. “Sin taxes” have certainly raised the cost of smoking, but it is also likely the case that a large majority of those who have given up the habit, did so because they decided to live a healthier life, through information and non-coercive peer-pressure by family members and friends – a method far more consistent with liberty than armies of busy-buddies playing political paternalists.

Obesity has increased from around 45 percent of the U.S. population in the 1960s to nearly 65 percent in the early part of the twenty-first century. But in one sense this is an indication of how wealthy we are and how inexpensive in general foods of all kinds have become compared to the past. In 1900 Americans spent around 43 percent of their family budget on food; in the first decade of the twenty-first century that had fallen to around 13 percent, or a 70 percent decline in the cost of putting food on the family dining table.

But at the same time, over the decades a significant number of people have gotten off the couch and gotten to the gym or on the park trails to run or bike regularly. More people try to eat and drink right. Since 1980, per capita alcohol consumption in the U.S. has decreased by about 15 percent.

Life expectance has dramatically improved over the last 75 years in the United States. In 1940 the average expected life span of all Americans was about 63 years; by 2010, this had increased to almost 79 years, for around a 25 percent increase in how long you can, on average, look forward to living. (For whites, in general, there has been a 23.5 percent increase in life expectancy between 1940 and the present. For blacks, in general, the increase in life expectancy during this period has been a dramatic 41.5 percent!)

Now, certainly, a good part of this improvement in the human condition has been due to advances in medicine, and improved education and information accessibility. But, nonetheless, the changes for the better are also due to people making their own choices and decisions about how to live their own lives based on what they consider to be a good and happy existence in a general economic and social environment of improved opportunities and choices.

In other words, Americans have not needed paternalist “experts” to control and manipulate their lives and twist the choice sets that such political elites think is necessary and “good” for the masses of the population.

Whose Life: Yours or the Government’s?

And this gets, I would suggest, to the heart of the matter. Whose life is it anyway? Even if individuals make decisions and act in ways that others may consider misguided and harmful to themselves, the first principle of any free society should and must be that the individual is sovereign over his own life.

Otherwise, he is a pawn to the paternalistic presumptions of those who arrogantly claim a right to control his existence in both small and great ways. Which gets to the second assumption behind the thinking and desires of the political “nudgers,” that they have the knowledge, wisdom and ability to know better the right choices that people should make for a rational, productive, and meaningful life.

Are not some of these “experts” the same people who were shown in the release of confidential emails a few years ago that they were determined to suppress and professionally bury any scientific evidence that ran counter to their absolute certainty that global warming was man-made and a threat to all living things on Earth?

Are not some of them the same people who have been found occasionally to falsify statistical and related data in their professional articles upon which they attempt to build their academic careers for purposes of position and financial reward?

Are not some of them the same people who before their appointment to positions as an economic advisor or bureaucratic overseer in government may have said that economic theory and historical evidence demonstrates that minimum wage laws tend to cause unemployment by pricing the unskilled or the low skilled out the labor market, but once in those positions of political authority suddenly say that such government regulations have little or none of such negative effects on such workers in general, if that fits in with the ideological and political agenda of those whom they serve in government?

In other words, are they not people just like some of the ones they criticize and “scientifically” sneer at for their claimed “irrationalities” and presumed emotional short-sightedness, for which they say there is only one answer: their guiding hand to dictate or “nudge” the “common man” into the elite’s conception of the “good,” the “right” and the “rational”?

Paternalism on the “Left” and the “Right”

At the same time, too many people believe that the only problem with all this is that the “wrong” individuals have been given such power and authority. Too often both American “progressives” on the political left and political conservatives on the right want government to intervention, regulate and “nudge” people into directions different than the ones they might have peacefully followed if left alone; their only difference being into which direction they want people to be nudged and who they would like to see elected or appointed to do the regulatory restricting, manipulating and controlling.

For too long, too many conservatives have forgotten or chosen to ignore in their quest for political control that once the state is given the responsibility to see that we do the “right thing,” they have no certainty that those empowered to implement the necessary policies will share their values and beliefs. They may be setting up or reinforcing or extending the political institutional mechanisms for the government to undermine the very ideals, values and beliefs you hold most dear when others they don’t like get into power.

It is only in the arena of freedom that individuals can find their own way, guided by their own beliefs, values and purposes without the fear of some others attempting to bend them to a vision, ideal or a meaning for life different to their own.

But to secure the opportunity to live your life and practice the values you consider important, there must be a “first principle.” That first principle must be the right of the individual to his own life, liberty and honestly acquired property without violence or political manipulative interference by the government powers-that-be.

This requires, at the same time, a rejection of the prevailing alternative first principle of modern society: the collectivist premise that the individual is subordinate and subject to the national, ethnic, religious, or social groups or tribes into which accident of birth or circumstances have placed him.

This should be the burning issue and alternatives debated and discussed in an election year: individualism versus collectivism. Instead, the campaign trail is filled with those who are more focused on trying to persuade the electorate on how they, respectively, have the “plan” to set everything right and assure every one of a better life and a happy future.

All of them are implicitly paternalistic “nudgers” and manipulators, merely arguing over how they each would better design society and control various aspects of people’s lives.

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TeamDepends's picture

America, are you a Constitutional Republic or a communist dictatorship? Choose now and choose wisely.https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Qszo8u1m9ZQ

Purpurroter Regen's picture

Good rarely comes out of governments. Take all these Middle East wars for example. Why are we waging them? >> http://wp.me/p4OZ4v-2g9

Father Thyme's picture

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD's picture

The role of the government is to be sure that no micro-aggressions violate my safe space in this euro-centrist, white-privilege, homophobic, war on women, world that is dying because peoples drive SUVs.

 

 

 

At least that's what Dear Leader and his ilk tell me.

Am I allowed to skip government re-education camp now?

Obama hu akbar?

Scooby Dooby Doo's picture

Our United States Government has clearly shown that it is here to help us reach our true potential.

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

Even if that true potential is busting rocks in the gulag with very little food or shelter.

August's picture

>>>>all these Middle East wars for example. Why are we waging them?

I'm not really sure, but I'm pretty sure it involves money, and the State of Israel.

But I repeat myself.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Everything government touches turns to shit.

FIFY

new game's picture

ask just one question; why does almost everything the goverment does, go against logic?

wars, bailout of the banks, AHC act, on and on. MONEY. where does money come from?

FED. have we got to the problem? done, bye, have a nice day...

El Vaquero's picture

Oil and the Petrodollar's necessity for the Dollar's status as the World Reserve Currency. 

 

“The American way of life is not up for negotiations. Period.”

~George H. W. Bush

 

Unfortunately, the American way of life is built upon a Ponzi scheme. 

TuPhat's picture

Yes, but, I didn't build that.

MASTER OF UNIVERSE's picture

America is neither a Constitutional Republic, or a Communist Dictatorship. America is a Banana Republic with a tin pot dictator.

GhostOfDiogenes's picture

False.

It is a bananaless banana republic by way of a ko$her oligarchy and a ko$her/kenyan multicult muslim communist as frontman.

His only redeeming quality seems to be past membership in a choom gang, and perhaps golf.

GhostOfDiogenes's picture

Stopped reading after this logical fallacy:

"We see this at work in America with government tax credits up to 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs to induce people to invest in solar panels"

The biggest members of the geo-political Free Shit Army (FSA) gangs (tied to big auto, big insurance, big banks, big military, big construction yadda yadda yadda) are big oil, big coal, and big nukular.

And you are bitching about....a few hundred bucks to get off of them?

More mises cult members spouting nonsense.

Father Thyme's picture

Mises cult

Yet most of them never actually read Mises.

Government as such is not only not an evil, but the most necessary and beneficial institution, as without it no lasting social cooperation and no civilization would be possible.  (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, p. 98)

Oh, and what does he say about anarchists?

A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists, chose to ignore the matter by suggesting a stateless organization of mankind.

Yep, he said that. Go download it and actually read Mises!

 

nmewn's picture

I've read enough for it to matter and you shouldn't drag in quotes out of context as it leaves you open to charges of provocateur.

The words BEFORE your quote give the context of the quote you provide as an argument:

"Thus, peaceful human cooperation, the prerequisite of prosperity and civilization, cannot exist without a social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, i.e., without a government. The evils of violence, robbery, and murder can be prevented only by an institution that itself, whenever needed, resorts to the very methods of acting for the prevention of which it is established. There emerges a distinction between illegal employment of violence and the legitimate recourse to it. In cognizance of this fact some people have called government an evil, although admitting that it is a necessary evil. However, what is required to attain an end sought and considered as beneficial is not an evil in the moral connotation of this term, but a means, the price to be paid for it. Yet the fact remains that actions that are deemed highly objectionable and criminal when perpetrated by "unauthorized" individuals are approved when committed by the "authorities."

Government as such is not only not an evil..." 

CONTEXT is everything.

So, if you're going to quote Mises out of context you will now provide the quote (or means) by which a society extracts itself from the clutches of a "cabal of criminal authorities" using the "legal processes" to not only enrich themselves but to crush any "authoritative" pursuit of justice against them.

Father Thyme's picture

I didn't quote him out of context, moron. You're like the religious fanatics who say their middle-eastern holy book gets quoted "out of context" when something they don't want to hear is quoted. You sound as retarded as this:

Context!!!!!! 
www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK7P7uZFf5o

charges of provocateur

Yep, you've got all the intellectual rigor of a religious fanatic shrieking "heresy!"

Nobody expectes the Spanish Inquisition! And you're about as funny.

nmewn's picture

Oh, I get it now, just throw a bunch of bullshit up on the wall and change the subject.

Well, cool...I guess...lmao!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO8vBVUaKvk

Father Thyme's picture

I didn't change the subject; I directly countered your moronic claims.

But if you want to change the subject, go ahead and change it to your favorite topic: butthole surfers.

P.S. Go read Mises, instead of throwing a tantrum. He actually wrote what I quoted.

Scooby Dooby Doo's picture

Scooby doesn't even read the long winded comments. I've got capers to solve!

Father Thyme's picture

Zoinks!

At least you're not "more mises cult members spouting nonsense."

Funny thing is, most of the Mises cultists are morons he called simple-minded anarchists.

Mises was no anarchist, and thought them stupid. But today, they're his main supporters. I suppose he'd be aghast at the situation.

GhostOfDiogenes's picture

Scooby is a ziontroll along with the mises cult members above.

For future reference.

nmewn's picture

Bullshit...context!

The "social engineer" is the reformer who is prepared to "liquidate" all those who do not fit into his plan for the arrangement of human affairs. Yet historians and sometimes even victims whom he puts to death are not averse to finding some extenuating circumstances for his massacres or planned massacres by pointing out that he was ultimately motivated by a noble ambition: he wanted to establish the perfect state of mankind. They assign to him a place in the long line of the designers of utopian schemes.

Now it is certainly folly to excuse in this way the mass murders of such sadistic gangsters as Stalin and Hitler. But there is no doubt that many of the most bloody "liquidators" were guided by the ideas that inspired from time immemorial the attempts of philosophers to meditate on a perfect constitution. Having once hatched out the design of such an ideal order, the author is in search of the man who would establish it by suppressing the opposition of all those who disagree. In this vein, Plato was anxious to find a tyrant who would use his power for the realization of the Platonic ideal state. The question whether other people would like or dislike what he himself had in store for them never occurred to Plato. It was an understood thing for him that the king who turned philosopher or the philosopher who became king was alone entitled to act and that all other people had, without a will of their own, to submit to his orders. Seen from the point of view of the philosopher who is firmly convinced of his own infallibility, all dissenters appear merely as stubborn rebels resisting what will benefit them.

The experience provided by history, especially by that of the last two hundred years, has not shaken this belief in salvation by tyranny and the liquidation of dissenters. Many of our contemporaries are firmly convinced that what is needed to render ail human affairs perfectly satisfactory is brutal suppression of all "bad" people, i.e., of those with whom they disagree. They dream of a perfect system of government that—as they think—would have already long since been realized if these "bad" men, guided by stupidity and selfishness, had not hindered its establishment.

A modern, allegedly scientific school of reformers rejects these violent measures and puts the blame for all that is found wanting in human conditions upon the alleged failure of what is called "political science." The natural sciences, they say, have advanced considerably in the last centuries, and technology provides us almost monthly with new instruments that render life more agreeable. But "political progress has been nil." The reason is that "political science stood still."11 Political science ought to adopt the methods of the natural sciences; it should no longer waste its time in mere speculations, but should study the "facts." For, as in the natural sciences, the "facts are needed before the theory."12

One can hardly misconstrue more lamentably every aspect of human conditions. Restricting our criticism to the epistemological problems involved, we have to say: What is today called "political science" is that branch of history that deals with the history of political institutions and with the history of political thought as manifested in the writings of authors who disserted about political institutions and sketched plans for their alteration. It is history, and can as such, as has been pointed out above, never provide any "facts" in the sense in which this term is used in the experimental natural sciences. There is no need to urge the political scientists to assemble all facts from the remote past and from recent history, falsely labeled "present experience."13 Actually they do all that can be done in this regard. And it is nonsensical to tell them that conclusions derived from this material ought "to be tested by experiments."14 It is supererogatory to repeat that the sciences of human action cannot make any experiments.

It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization that would place a theoretical science by the side of the purely historical discipline of political science. All we can say today is that no living man knows how such a science could be constructed. But even if such a new branch of praxeology were to emerge one day, it would be of no use for the treatment of the problem philosophers and statesmen were and are anxious to solve.

That every human action has to be judged and is judged by its fruits or results is an old truism. It is a principle with regard to which the Gospels agree with the often badly misunderstood teachings of the utilitarian philosophy. But the crux is that people widely differ from one another in their appraisal of the results. What some consider as good or best is often passionately rejected by others as entirely bad. The utopians did not bother to tell us what arrangement of affairs of state would best satisfy their fellow citizens. They merely expounded what conditions of the rest of mankind would be most satisfactory to themselves. Neither to them nor to their adepts who tried to realize their schemes did it ever occur that there is a fundamental difference between these two things. The Soviet dictators and their retinue think that all is good in Russia as long as they themselves are satisfied.

But even if for the sake of argument we put aside this issue, we have to emphasize that the concept of the perfect system of government is fallacious and self-contradictory.

What elevates man above all other animals is the cognition that peaceful cooperation under the principle of the division of labor is a better method to preserve life and to remove felt uneasiness than indulging in pitiless biological competition for a share in the scarce means of subsistence provided by nature. Guided by this insight, man alone among all living beings consciously aims at substituting social cooperation for what philosophers have called the state of nature or bellum omnium contra omnes or the law of the jungle. However, in order to preserve peace, it is, as human beings are, indispensable to be ready to repel by violence any aggression, be it on the part of domestic gangsters or on the part of external foes. Thus, peaceful human cooperation, the prerequisite of prosperity and civilization, cannot exist without a social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, i.e., without a government. The evils of violence, robbery, and murder can be prevented only by an institution that itself, whenever needed, resorts to the very methods of acting for the prevention of which it is established. There emerges a distinction between illegal employment of violence and the legitimate recourse to it. In cognizance of this fact some people have called government an evil, although admitting that it is a necessary evil. However, what is required to attain an end sought and considered as beneficial is not an evil in the moral connotation of this term, but a means, the price to be paid for it. Yet the fact remains that actions that are deemed highly objectionable and criminal when perpetrated by "unauthorized" individuals are approved when committed by the "authorities."

Government as such is not only not an evil, but the most necessary and beneficial institution, as without it no lasting social cooperation and no civilization could be developed and preserved. It is a means to cope with an inherent imperfection of many, perhaps of the majority of all people. If all men were able to realize that the alternative to peaceful social cooperation is the renunciation of all that distinguishes Homo sapiens from the beasts of prey, and if all had the moral strength always to act accordingly, there would not be any need for the establishment of a social apparatus of coercion and oppression. Not the state is an evil, but the shortcomings of the human mind and character that imperatively require the operation of a police power. Government and state can never be perfect because they owe their raison d'être to the imperfection of man and can attain their end, the elimination of man's innate impulse to violence, only by recourse to violence, the very thing they are called upon to prevent.

It is a double-edged makeshift to entrust an individual or a group of individuals with the authority to resort to violence. The enticement implied is too tempting for a human being. The men who are to protect the community against violent aggression easily turn into the most dangerous aggressors. They transgress their mandate. They misuse their power for the oppression of those whom they were expected to defend against oppression. The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty. The essential characteristic of Western civilization that distinguishes it from the arrested and petrified civilizations of the East was and is its concern for freedom from the state. The history of the West, from the age of the Greek ????? down to the present-day resistance to socialism, is essentially the history of the fight for liberty against the encroachments of the officeholders.

A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists, chose to ignore the matter by suggesting a stateless organization of mankind. They simply passed over the fact that men are not angels. They were too dull to realize that in the short run an individual or a group of individuals can certainly further their own interests at the expense of their own and all other peoples' long-run interests. A society that is not prepared to thwart the attacks of such asocial and short-sighted aggressors is helpless and at the mercy of its least intelligent and most brutal members. While Plato founded his utopia on the hope that a small group of perfectly wise and morally impeccable philosophers will be available for the supreme conduct of affairs, anarchists implied that all men without any exception will be endowed with perfect wisdom and moral impeccability. They failed to conceive that no system of social cooperation can remove the dilemma between a man's or a group's interests in the short run and those in the long run.

Man's atavistic propensity to beat into submission all other people manifests itself clearly in the popularity enjoyed by the socialist scheme. Socialism is totalitarian. The autocrat or the board of autocrats alone is called upon to act. All other men will be deprived of any discretion to choose and to aim at the ends chosen; opponents will be liquidated. In approving of this plan, every socialist tacitly implies that the dictators, those entrusted with production management and all government functions, will precisely comply with his own ideas about what is desirable and what undesirable. In deifying the state—if he is an orthodox Marxian, he calls it society—and in assigning to it unlimited power, he deifies himself and aims at the violent suppression of all those with whom he disagrees. The socialist does not see any problem in the conduct of political affairs because he cares only for his own satisfaction and does not take into account the possibility that a socialist government would proceed in a way he does not like.

The "Political scientists" are free from the illusions and self-deception that mar the judgment of anarchists and socialists. But busy with the study of the immense historical material, they become preoccupied with detail, with the numberless instances of petty jealousy, envy, personal ambition, and covetousness displayed by the actors on the political scene. They ascribe the failure of all political systems heretofore tried to the moral and intellectual weakness of man. As they see it, these systems failed because their satisfactory functioning would have required men of moral and intellectual qualities only exceptionally present in reality. Starting from this doctrine, they tried to draft plans for a political order that could function automatically, as it were, and would not be embroiled by the ineptitude and vices of men. The ideal constitution ought to safeguard a blemishless conduct of public affairs in spite of the rulers' and the people's corruption and inefficiency. Those searching for such a legal system did not indulge in the illusions of the utopian authors who assumed that all men or at least a minority of superior men are blameless and efficient. They gloried in their realistic approach to the problem. But they never raised the question how men tainted by all the shortcomings inherent in the human character could be induced to submit voluntarily to an order that would prevent them from giving vent to their whims and fancies.

However, the main deficiency of this allegedly realistic approach to the problem is not this alone. It is to be seen in the illusion that government, an institution whose essential function is the employment of violence, could be operated according to the principles of morality that condemn peremptorily the recourse to violence. Government is beating into submission, imprisoning, and killing. People may be prone to forget it because the law-abiding citizen meekly submits to the orders of the authorities so as to avoid punishment. But the jurists are more realistic and call a law to which no sanction is attached an imperfect law. The authority of man-made law is entirely due to the weapons of the constables who enforce obedience to its provisions. Nothing of what is to be said about the necessity of governmental action and the benefits derived from it can remove or mitigate the suffering of those who are languishing in prisons. No reform can render perfectly satisfactory the operation of an institution the essential activity of which consists in inflicting pain.

Responsibility for the failure to discover a perfect system of government does not rest with the alleged backwardness of what is called political science. If men were perfect, there would not be any need for government. With imperfect men no system of government could function satisfactorily.

The eminence of man consists in his power to choose ends and to resort to means for the attainment of the ends chosen; the activities of government aim at restricting this discretion of the individuals. Every man aims at avoiding what causes him pain; the activities of government ultimately consist in the infliction of pain. All great achievements of mankind were the product of a spontaneous effort on the part of individuals; government substitutes coercion for voluntary action. It is true, government is indispensable because men are not faultless. But designed to cope with some aspects of human imperfection, it can never be perfect.

Father Thyme's picture

So my quote was correct, and in context.

And you've proven that you've got all the intellectual rigor of a fundamentalist cult fanatic who thinks "context" means "reams of pages."

So when are you going to stop being a shallow-minded anarchist, as Mises put it?

nmewn's picture

Your quote was correct but OUT OF CONTEXT and you failed to understand any of it...

"All great achievements of mankind were the product of a spontaneous effort on the part of individuals; government substitutes coercion for voluntary action. It is true, government is indispensable because men are not faultless. But designed to cope with some aspects of human imperfection, it can never be perfect."

...by calling anyone who can actually read & understand ALL OF IT "a cultist"?

Really? 

So, you're a cultist then?

El Vaquero's picture

nmewn,

 

Father Thyme is nothing more than 4chan spilling over onto ZH.  He's an industrial grade troll. 

Father Thyme's picture

Oh dear, you're still butthurt from the last spanking I gave you.

 

El Vaquero's picture

Fuck off, you dumb cuck.  I'm going to ignore you except to point out that you're nothing more than a meme fagot who upvotes himself and will conveniently leave relevant information out to make a point. 

Father Thyme's picture

 I'm going to ignore you

Flounce away!

If you don't want to be humiliated again, that is your best policy, coward.

Father Thyme's picture

What you ought to notice is what Mises thought of you anarchists. "Simple-minded."

That's you in a nutshell. Straight from Mises.

nmewn's picture

"It is to be seen in the illusion that government, an institution whose essential function is the employment of violence, could be operated according to the principles of morality that condemn peremptorily the recourse to violence. Government is beating into submission, imprisoning, and killing. People may be prone to forget it because the law-abiding citizen meekly submits to the orders of the authorities so as to avoid punishment."

Hmmm, almost sounds "anarchy-ish" doesn't it? 

Perhaps you should rejoin the cult over at HuffPo.

Bye.

Father Thyme's picture

Perhaps you should actually read Mises and what he thought of you "simple-minded" anarchists.

Again, thanks for proving how intellectually dishonest you simple-minded anarchists are, and how you like to misuse Mises' texts.

El Vaquero's picture

I'm telling ya, nmewn, he's from 4chan.  There is a good chance that he doesn't believe the shit that he's spouting and he's just spouting it to get a reaction. 

Father Thyme's picture

Funny how anarcho-twits have to make up bullshit to hide the fact that Mises was not an anarchist, and he called anarchists "shallow-minded."  Anyway, keep proving him correct.

Father Thyme's picture

My quote was not out of context.

You're a shallow-minded anarchist twit. Mises was not.

So you quoted enough of Mises to include the parts of Mises with which you agree as an anarchist -- while burying the parts of Mises you find uncomfortable in reams of text.

Thanks for continually providing evidence of the paucity of your intellect.

Ofay Cat's picture

You would need to put a lot more pictures in with all those words or I just fall asleep trying to remember what I just read in the previous paragraph. Pictures yeah ... worth thousands of words. I am for freedom of the individual as the only way to live a life.

stacking12321's picture

GhostOfDiogenes wrote:

"Stopped reading after this logical fallacy:

"We see this at work in America with government tax credits up to 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs to induce people to invest in solar panels""

ok, so where is the "logical fallacy" that you mention?

don't have an answer? then STFU.

it's pretty clear that the article is logically consistent on this point.

look up the term "logical fallacy" if you have no clue what it means.

when you toss around terms without understanding their meaning, the only thing you accomplish, is to discredit yourself and reveal your own stupidity.

it's one thing to say you disagree with the conclusion, that's fine. it's quite another to claim a logical fallacy where none exists - that makes you an idiot or a liar, or both.

GhostOfDiogenes's picture

Wrong answer!

The fallacy used by the author was a causal fallacy: insignificant

Ibid: Agrippa's trimlemma

barroter's picture

Free Shit Army = Corps Lobbying Gov't for Freebies.

NoDebt's picture

"We no longer pray to rain gods for precipitation or (well, at least, rarely!) throw human beings into volcanoes to appease the angered gods"

We should start throwing people into volcanoes again.  I say we start with bankers, then politicians, then lawyers.  Maybe one of each every day for the first few years.  

I'm sure there are some angry gods out there that would be appeased by this.

TeamDepends's picture

Mekka lekka hi
Mekka heini ho
What NoDebt says
Let it be so!

Ms No's picture

I think that is a great idea.  I had the same thought the other day when they posted the volcano story.  It just makes sense.  Just drop them out of helicopters, if you miss... no biggie.

Steroid's picture

With Keynesian economics:

If it was not working apply it more!

g'kar's picture

"I say we start with bankers, then politicians, then lawyers."

 

in some cases you get all three with one throw

JamaicaJim's picture

GOVERNMENT...........

HAS BEEN BASTARDIZED, BOUGHT OFF THE LIKE THAT TAMMANY HALL WOULD BE ENVIOUS, GONE CAREER PRONE, THE "OWNED" (Congress, DOJ, DOD, etc.) ARE ABOVE THE LAWS FOR THE UNWASHED, AS THEY HAVE THE GOODS ON EVERYONE ELSE, (or william colby'ed) AND IS WAAAAAY TOO MUCH INTO PEOPLE'S LIVES, SUPPORTS TOO MANY THAT ARE TOO LAZY TO STAND ON THEIR OWN FEET, AND ENSLAVED THE MASSES IN THE MOST DIABOLICAL WAY.

Tom Jefferson would be leading the revolution this time if he time traveled forward....

Terminus C's picture

Tom, today, would be NSA outed as a philandering, racist slave owner and discredited in the media.  So much so that the average sheople would revile him and relegate him to the conspiracy wonks and fringe political movements.

Though, in all honesty, he would likely shake his head in disgust at the pathetic state of the U.S. citizen, go back in time and tell all his buddies, "fuck it, it ain't worth botherin' because the retarded obese fuckers shit it away in the end anyway".

JamaicaJim's picture

Terminus....you're probably right.

However, Jefferson's love of this COUNTRY (the land, what HE saw worth fighting for) would make him one of the leaders of the opposition.

I often think of the grunt soldiers fighting in WW2 ( the last "good war", pre-C.I.A., and a real enemy (The Japs, not necessarily Germany) - and even that war was contrived) - if they could see in the future, what the US has become, they'd have not fought as hard/be beaten/given up.

roddy6667's picture

Humans are social animals. Most choose to live in groups for security and the betterment of their lives. You give up some personal freedoms to gain advantages of societal living. When the benefits disappear, people question why they are making sacrifices with no return.