Author Archive for Quotes

Luxuries into Necessities

About sixty years ago [i.e., sixty years before 1956] Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904), the great French sociologist, dealt with the problem of the popularization of luxuries. An industrial innovation, he pointed out, enters the market as the extravagance of an elite before it finally turns, step-by-step, into a need of each and all and is considered indispensable. What was once a luxury becomes in the course of time a necessity. The history of technology and marketing provides ample exemplification to confirm Tarde’s thesis. There was in the past a considerable time lag between the emergence of something unheard of before and its becoming an article of everybody’s use. It sometimes took many centuries until an innovation was generally accepted at least within the orbit of Western civilization. Think of the slow popularization of the use of forks, of soap, of handkerchiefs, and of a great variety of other things.

–Ludwig von Mises. Luxuries into Necessities

Government Can Be Prevented! Repelling States: Evidence from Upland Southeast Asia

“The peoples of the vast Southeast Asian region of Zomia were successful in providing incentives against statecraft–that is, they successfully prevented their own appropriation by external states and successfully prevented local state formation–for most of their long history. James C Scott notes that Zomian populations disincentivized statecraft via ‘patterns of settlement, agriculture, and social structure.’ We describe these interrelated mechanisms–settlement, agriculture, and social structure–more broadly as (1) locational, (2) productional, and (3) cultural mechanisms to repel states.”

–Edward Peter Stringham and Caleb J. Miles. Repelling States: Evidence from Upland Southeast Asia

Historicism and Epistemological Problems of History

“The theorems of economics, say the historicists, are void because they are the product of a priori reasoning. Only historical experience can lead to realistic economics. They fail to see that historical experience is always the experience of complex phenomena, of the joint effects brought about by the operation of a multiplicity of elements. Such historical experience does not give the observer facts in the sense in which the natural sciences apply this term to the results obtained in laboratory experiments. Historical facts need to be interpreted on the ground of previously available theorems. They do not comment upon themselves. The antagonism between economics and historicism does not concern the historical facts. It concerns the interpretation of the facts.”

–Ludwig von Mises. Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution

An International Bank? July 19, 1944

“The drive for a $10,000,000,000 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development illustrates once more the fetish of machinery that possesses the minds of the governmental delegates at Bretton Woods. Like the proposed $8,800,000,000 International Monetary Fund, it rests on the assumption that nothing will be done right unless a grandiose formal intergovernmental institution is set up to do it. It assumes that nothing will be run well unless Governments run it. One institution is to be piled upon another, even though their functions duplicate each other. Thus the proposed Fund is clearly a lending institution, by whatever name it may be called; its purpose is to bolster weak currencies by loans of strong currencies.”

–Henry Hazlitt, From Bretton Woods to World Inflation: A Study of Causes and Consequences

The Resentment of the Intellectuals

“It is different with people whom special conditions of their occupation or their family affiliation bring into personal contact with the winners of the prizes which–as they believe–by rights should have been given to themselves. With them the feelings of frustrated ambition become especially poignant because they engender hatred of concrete living beings. They loathe capitalism because it has assigned to this other man the position they themselves would like to have. Such is the case with those people who are commonly called the intellectuals. Take for instance the physicians. Daily routine and experience make every doctor cognizant of the fact that there exists a hierarchy in which all medical men are graded according to their merits and achievements. It is the same with many lawyers and teachers, artists and actors, writers and journalists, architects and scientific research workers, engineers and chemists. They, too, feel frustrated because they are vexed by the ascendancy of their more successful colleagues.”

–Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality

Overpopulation and Built-in Obsolescence

“The theory of ‘built-in’ obsolescence is fallacious. And, with the advent of the ecology movement and the neo-Malthusian Zero Population Growth adherents, it is more important than ever to lay the fallacy to rest. According to the overpopulationists, we have or are soon going to have too many people in relation to the earth’s resources. In the view of the environmentalists, we are presently wasting the resources we have. Built-in obsolescence is a tragic, totally unnecessary component of this waste.”

–Walter Block, Defending the Undefendable

Production Theory and Man, Economy, and State

“One of Rothbard’s greatest accomplishments in production theory was the development of a capital and interest theory that integrated the temporal production-structure analysis of Knut Wicksell and Hayek with the pure-time-preference theory expounded by Frank A. Fetter and Ludwig von Mises. Although the roots of both of these strands of thought can be traced back to Böhm-Bawerk’s work, his exposition was confused and raised seemingly insoluble contradictions between the two. They were subsequently developed separately until Rothbard revealed their inherent logical connection.”

–Joseph T. Salerno, Introduction to Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market

The Anatomy of the State

“We must, therefore, emphasize that ‘we’ are not the government; the government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people. But, even if it did, even if 70 percent of the people decided to murder the remaining 30 percent, this would still be murder and would not be voluntary suicide on the part of the slaughtered minority.”

–Murray N Rothbard, Anatomy of the State

Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Rebellions in American History

“The United States owes its birth in part to a tax strike. Despite this fact, tax rebellion has not been a favorite topic of American historians. Remarkably few studies deal with the politics of taxation–much less tax revolt–after the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s. This neglect is lamentable not only because the taxpayers’ protest merits consideration as a historical phenomenon in its own right but because it also offers a suggestive approach to several vital questions. Chief among these is the relationship of tax conflicts to the following issues: the perpetuation of legitimacy by the state, class theory, and the strengths, weaknesses, and persistence of anti-big-government thought during American economic crises.”

–David T. Beito, Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Resistance during the Great Depression

Ludwig von Mises on Sound Money

“It is impossible to grasp the meaning of the idea of sound money if one does not realize that it was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments. Ideologically it belongs in the same class with political constitutions and bills of rights. The demand for constitutional guarantees and for bills of rights was a reaction against arbitrary rule and the nonobservance of old customs by kings. The postulate of sound money was first brought up as a response to the princely practice of debasing the coinage.”

–Ludwig von Mises. The Theory of Money and Credit