"The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight!" ~ Ludwig von Mises
The Importance of Praxeology
Column by new Root Striker Batu Caliskan.
Exclusive to STR
Those admitted to modern institutions of “higher education” can invariably be ordered into two distinct categories: the professional and the ideological. The former is constituted by students of the natural sciences, whereas the latter includes those involved in the study of the subjective. Unfortunately, when the discipline is intractably subjective, authority tends to triumph over alternative heuristics and methodologies. The modern universities, by virtue of their ideological capital, can and do crowd out praxeological studies of political economy, substituting in place unfalsifiable notions of nebulous “social forces” in an effort to modalize economic and social interactions. Many, mainly those outside of academia, consider the social “sciences” taught in the universities a complete farce, and for the most part, they are correct in their judgment. These subjects have long been bereft of intellectual rigor, attributable to the fact that they are heavily reliant upon class-narratives.
There are important distinctions between praxeological and class-based thinking which polarize these two ideological approaches. Praxeology is the analysis of human behavior in response to incentive structures, with these behaviors most directly expressed in the form of economic calculation. More importantly, praxeology concerns emergentism, as applied to human affairs. Under the deductive rigors of praxeology, social interactions and institutions are viewed as causal products of calibrated market forces. In short, an entire economic system is derived, in an emergent fashion, from the simple axiom of human action. Class-narratives do not follow the emergent, or praxeological, structure of thought, in which cogent arguments and conclusions are derived from an analysis of relevant information. Class-narratives, instead, establish a mythical underclass and overclass (usually organized along racial, religious, political, and ethnic lines) in an a priori fashion, and it is from these presuppositions all political, economic, and social rationalizations naturally follow. These rationalizations can often be brilliant, but this is all after the fact. Once the classes and intergroup dynamics are settled upon, and the rationalizations are necessarily plausible, the final straightening touch is applied: the integration of preexisting, conflicting bodies of information into the presupposed ideological superstructure.
To illustrate the principle, consider the American liberal media’s response to the Arab-Israeli conflict. A sizable amount of solidarity has been extended to Arab nationalists in their demand for a Palestinian state1, and public reaction among the younger generations has incrementally shifted in support of this ethno-cultural group2. The same individuals who sympathize with this particular subset of Arab nationalists often do not extend this sentiment to other subsets, which implies that this solidarity is predicated on the overclass-underclass narratives; support is extended to Arab nationalists (and by proxy bolsters the ideological legitimacy of a Palestine) on the basis that they are members of a predefined underclass, in relation to the Israeli overclass.
It is no surprise that this type of presuppositional thinking is popular in the universities, particularly in the social “science” departments; the anti-emergent nature of class-narratives parallels the anti-emergent nature of the state. Since the modern university is largely dependent on state funding and monopolistic accreditation schemes to maintain grossly-inflated tuition expenses, and is threatened by the disassociation of education from state interference, it actively promotes a statist mentality characterized by opposition to political and economic decentralization. This thinking is also responsible for the increasing prominence of what is commonly deemed “political correctness,” which often resorts to the expansion of state power to “equalize” economic and social relations among various groups of people. “Affirmative action,” or systematic preferences extended to certain racial groups on the basis of their supposed social inferiority to the racial overclasses, is a relevant example of this. There is a host of other examples explicating how class-narratives can justify brazen market distortions by state agencies, but it is unnecessary to delve further, for a more fundamental point arises.
Thinking along collective lines is not tantamount to thinking along class-narratives. It is certain that no advocate of free association would oppose the cries for voluntary self-separation among collectivist-minded ethnic, racial, and even religious nationalists and sectarians. What renders the contemporary adherents of class-narratives dangerous, in terms of their ability to influence and enlarge state power, is that they view every inequality–economic or otherwise–between social groups a symptom to be “corrected” by governmental duress. In other words, these academics advocate the forced integration of free individuals and cement patterns of coercively-conditioned associations in an attempt to actualize a personal vision of egalitarianism. These thinkers have long admitted to the implausibility of complete material equality between individuals, so the only equality left to consider is the equality between collectives.
Just as the final victory of markets will entail the marketization of law, the final victory of praxeology will entail the economization of thought: the recognition of “social” phenomena as corollaries of underlying economic phenomena. Praxeology can systematize subjective disciplines by recognizing human action as the principal determinant of economic—and hence social—organization, and ultimately discredit the prevalent fallacy of Boekian dualism between the two supposedly-separate spheres of human involvement: economics and social interaction. This advancement in thought can hopefully remove the ideological barriers many hold against a free society governed by self-regulatory market forces, and dispel the modern mythos of state intervention in the emergent structure of production.
1 Telhami, Shibley. PDF. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 5 Dec. 2014.
2 Jones, Jeffrey M. “Americans' Reaction to Middle East Situation Similar to Past.” Gallup. 24 July 2014. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.