Ludwig von Mises – A Primer

My friend, Dr. Eamonn Butler, Director and a founder of the Adam Smith Institute, has just published his work summarising and introducing us to the work of Ludwig von Mises. It is available here, from the IEA, either as a free download, or as a paid for publication.In many ways, von Mises has been over looked by today’s generation of policy makers and economists, yet his prescience and clarity help better explain the context for today’s recession. Politically his insight was far reaching and still holds great resonance:In Interventionism, An Economic Analysis(1940), Ludwig von Mises wrote:”The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is ‘left‘ and what is ‘right‘? Why should Hitler be ‘right’ and Stalin, his temporary friend, be ‘left’? Who is ‘reactionary‘ and who is ‘progressive‘? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended.”

His output is huge – from the four volume work of “Human Action” to the brilliant and comprehensive “Socialism” (both available from Liberty Fund), his previously unpublished work, essays and lectures are still finding significance in a new generation of readers.

Dr. Butler manages to provide a succinct yet comprehensive introduction to these works: every paragraph is rich in reference. Speaking about the Liberal Framework, he say of von Mises:

“Nor does liberalism aim to provide a particular social structure, or a particular distribution of income. It merely establishes a framework of peace, stability and equality before the law, and within that framework, people are free to co-operate in any way they see fit…These things are merely the outcome of the complex , voluntary interactions between free individuals.” For a small book with a lot of punch, you could do far worse than read Ludwig von Mises – A Primer…

Debt of gratitude…

We at MBC have been very privileged to be both witness and participant in the broad policy debate on the centre and economically liberal right of British politics for almost twenty years now. From the inception of the Social Market Foundation in 1989 and the individual membership of Damian Merciar, through to his contribution in a non party aligned capacity, to both the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs – the leading intellectual forums of their kind in Europe, we have participated in the debate on the future of our regulated and former monopoly State industries.

We have witnessed and worked in these industries in their privatised and liberalised form, and witnessed the benefits derived from this liberalisation. We have argued for greater accountability of funding for Government sponsorship of “safe” sectors, such as aviation and sponsored medical research. We have helped promote and articulate the case for free trade in Damian’s personal involvement in the new and influential think tank, the Globalisation Institute.

We have argued the case for decreasing regulation as the benefits of competition develop a sector’s market – most obviously witnessed in the mobile telecoms arena, an area that didn’t exist twenty years ago, and one that flourished on the back of a liberalised fixed telecoms market. Who would have thought that not too long ago the Post Office was responsible for telephony in the UK?

Whilst it may be the new hegemony, its safety is not guaranteed. The rise of micro-management, the interventionist instincts of the present Government and particularly the indication that a future Government under Gordon Brown would make things worse – all these are cause for concern.

There is a simple clarity to non-interventionist commercial policy; our business benefits both immediately and in the longer term. The strictures of price transparency and free competition open our activities to the vagaries of customer loyalty, and the requirement to foster this loyalty. Whilst it is very stimulating to discuss Hayekian principles of Economic Liberalism, and the canon of Liberal Greats stretching from John Stuart Mill to Buchanan, it is more profound to contemplate them in practise, amidst the greater prosperity of personal choice.

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