Author Archive for Mises.org 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

Period of Production, Duration of Serviceableness, and Period of Provision

“The concepts of period of production [i.e., time-period AB] and duration of serviceableness [of the consumers' good, i.e., time-period BC] are present in all human action. There is also a third time-period that enters into action. Each person has a general time-horizon, stretching from the present into the future, for which he plans various types of action. Whereas period of production and duration of serviceableness refer to specific consumers’ goods and differ with each consumers’ good, the period of provision (the time-horizon) is the length of future time for which each actor plans to satisfy his wants. The period of provision, therefore, includes planned action for a considerable variety of consumers’ goods, each with its own period of production and duration. This period of provision differs from actor to actor in accordance with his choice. Some people live from day to day, taking no heed of later periods of time; others plan not only for the duration of their own lives, but for their children as well.”

–Murray N. Rothbard. Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market

Murray Rothbard on Recovering from Economic Depressions

“It should be clear that any governmental interference with the depression process can only prolong it, thus making things worse from almost everyone’s point of view. Since the depression process is the recovery process, any halting or slowing down of the process impedes the advent of recovery. The depression readjustments must work themselves out before recovery can be complete. The more these readjustments are delayed, the longer the depression will have to last, and the longer complete recovery is postponed.”

–Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market

Chaos Theory: Private Law

“Without question, the legal system is the one facet of society that supposedly requires State provision. Even such champions of laissez-faire as Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises believed a government must exist to protect private property and define the “rules of the game.” However, their arguments focused on the necessity of law itself. They simply assumed that the market is incapable of defining and protecting property rights. They were wrong. I argue that the elimination of the State will not lead to lawless chaos. Voluntary institutions will emerge to effectively and peacefully resolve the disputes arising in everyday life.”

–Robert P. Murphy, Chaos Theory

Is Security an Exception?

“It thus has been demonstrated a priori, to those of us who have faith in the principles of economic science, that the exception indicated above is not justified, and that the production of security, like anything else, should be subject to the law of free competition. Political economy has disapproved equally of monopoly and communism in the various branches of human activity, wherever it has found them. Is it not then strange and unreasonable that it accepts them in the security industry?”

–Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security

Capital is NOT a Homogeneous Blob

“Professor Lachmann has been diligently reminding us of what economists generally forget: that “capital” is not just a homogeneous blob that can be added to or subtracted from. Capital is an intricate, delicate, interweaving structure of capital goods. All of the delicate strands of this structure have to fit, and fit precisely, or else malinvestment occurs. The free market is almost an automatic mechanism for such fitting; and we have seen throughout this volume how the free market, with its price system and profit-and-loss criteria, adjusts the output and variety of the different strands of production, preventing any one from getting long out of alignment.”

–Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market

Law and the State

“Law and the State are both conceptually and historically separable, and law would develop in an anarchistic market society without any form of State. Specifically, the concrete form of anarchist legal institutions–judges, arbitrators, procedural methods for resolving disputes, etc.–would indeed grow by a market invisible-hand process, while the basic Law Code (requiring that no one invade any one else’s person and property) would have to be agreed upon by all the judicial agencies, just as all the competing judges once agreed to apply and extend the basic principles of the customary or common law.”

–Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty

The Theory of Land Ownership

“It must be added that the theory of land ownership in a free society set forth here, i.e., first ownership by the first user, has nothing in common with another superficially similar theory of land ownership–advanced by J.K. Ingalls and his disciples in the late nineteenth century. Ingalls advocated continuing ownership only for actual occupiers and personal users of the land. This is in contrast to original ownership by the first user.”

–Murray N. Rothbard. Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market

Professor Hoppe on Socialized Health Care

“With the socialization of the health care system through institutions such as Medicaid and Medicare and the regulation of the insurance industry (by restricting an insurer’s right of refusal: to exclude any individual risk as uninsurable, and discriminate freely, according to actuarial methods, between different group risks) a monstrous machinery of wealth and income redistribution at the expense of responsible individuals and low-risk groups in favor of irresponsible actors and high-risk groups has been put in motion.”

–Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed

The Montaigne Fallacy

“The Leitmotiv [i.e., an often repeated theme] of social philosophy up to the emergence of economics was: The profit of one man is the damage of another; no man profits but by the loss of others.  This is not a philosophy of social cooperation, but of dissociation and social disintegration.  For the sake of expediency, we call this doctrine after its proponent, essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92).  In the light of this Montaigne fallacy, human intercourse cannot consist in anything but the spoliation of the weaker by the stronger.”

–Ludwig von Mises. Economics as a Bridge for Interhuman Understanding

Land Monopoly

“There are two types of ethically invalid land titles: “feudalism,” in which there is continuing aggression by titleholders of land against peasants engaged in transforming the soil; and land-engrossing, where arbitrary claims to virgin land are used to keep first-transformers out of that land.  We may call both of these aggressions “land monopoly”–not in the sense that some one person or group owns all the land in society, but in the sense that arbitrary privileges to land ownership are asserted in both cases, clashing with the libertarian rule of non-ownership of land except by actual transformers, their heirs, and their assigns.”

–Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty