Libertarians and the Environment, Part 2 of 3: Mises Loves Malthus

Column by Lawrence M. Ludlow.

 

Exclusive to STR

 

Mises on Malthus
 
In his chapter entitled “Harmony and the Conflict of Interests,” Mises included a lengthy section (six pages) entitled “The Limitation of Offspring.” In it he raises several key issues. First he identifies the circumstances in which an increase in population can be accommodated.
 
Within the system of society there is no conflict of interests as long as the optimum size of population has not been reached. As long as the employment of additional hands results in a more than proportionate increase in the returns, harmony of interests is substituted for conflict. People are no longer rivals in the struggle for the allocation of portions out of a strictly limited supply. They become cooperators in striving after ends common to all of them. An increase in population figures does not curtail, but rather augments, the average shares of the individuals. [Emphasis added]
 
Then Mises pays much more than lip-service to the concept of overpopulation as outlined by Malthus:
 
The Malthusian law of population is one of the great achievements of thought. Together with the principle of the division of labor it provided the foundations for modern biology and for the theory of evolution; the importance of these two fundamental theorems for the sciences of human action is second only to the discovery of the regularity in the intertwinement and sequence of market phenomena and their inevitable determination by the market data. The objections raised against the Malthusian law as well as against the law of returns are vain and trivial. Both laws are indisputable. But the role to be assigned to them within the body of the sciences of human action is different from that which Malthus attributed to them.
 
Nonhuman beings are entirely subject to the operation of the biological law described by Malthus. For them the statement that their numbers tend to encroach upon the means of subsistence and that the supernumerary specimens are weeded out by want of sustenance is valid without any exception. With reference to the nonhuman animals the notion of minimum sustenance has an unequivocal, uniquely determined sense. But the case is different with man. Man integrates the satisfaction of the purely zoological impulses, common to all animals, into a scale of values, in which a place is also assigned to specifically human ends. Acting man also rationalizes the satisfaction of his sexual appetites. Their satisfaction is the outcome of a weighing of pros and cons. Man does not blindly submit to a sexual stimulation like a bull; he refrains from copulation if he deems the costs – the anticipated disadvantages – too high. In this sense we may, without any valuation or ethical connotation, apply the term moral restraint [i.e., abstinence] employed by Malthus.
 
In his comparison of humans to other animals, when Mises claims that “the case is different with man,” he does not imply that there are no exceptions to forward-looking, planning behavior. We can easily insert the word potentially into the sentence to read “the case is potentially different with man,” as the remaining sections will demonstrate. Furthermore, please note that Mises understood perfectly the objections that had been raised to the thesis presented by Thomas Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population.
 
The wealth that modern capitalism bestows upon the broad masses of the capitalist countries and the improvement in hygienic conditions and therapeutical and prophylactic methods brought about by capitalism have considerably reduced mortality, especially infant mortality, and prolonged the average duration of life. Today in these countries the restriction in generating offspring can succeed only if it is more drastic than in earlier ages. The transition to capitalism – i.e., the removal of the obstacles which in former days had fettered the functioning of private initiative and enterprise – has consequently deeply influenced sexual customs. It is not the practice of birth control that is new, but merely the fact that it is more frequently resorted to. Especially new is the fact that the practice is no longer limited to the upper strata of the population, but is common to the whole population. For it is one of the most important social effects of capitalism that it deproletarianizes all strata of society. It raises the standard of living of the masses of the manual workers to such a height that they too turn into “bourgeois” and think and act like well-to-do burghers. Eager to preserve their standard of living for themselves and for their children, they embark upon birth control. With the spread and progress of capitalism, birth control becomes a universal practice. The transition to capitalism is thus accompanied by two phenomena: a decline both in fertility rates and in mortality rates. The average duration of life is prolonged.
 
The Need for a Free-Market Ethos to Avoid Overpopulation
 
By the time Mises wrote Human Action, he was well aware of (1) the positive impact of technology on agricultural production, (2) the downward-sloping population curve of industrial societies (the tendency for people in industrial societies to have smaller families and to seek a higher standard of living), and (3) their impact on the Malthus thesis. And what is the Malthus thesis? In brief, Malthus believed that an increase in the human population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence – i.e., agricultural technology. This is not controversial. But Malthus also claimed that all animal populations invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and that the power of population is greater than the power of the earth to yield subsistence (Book 1, Chapter 1). In other words, population will always outstrip the means of subsistence. This is clearly false. As we know, the ethos of Western industrial society has mitigated population growth as people seek greater comfort and a higher standard of living – along with smaller families. Nonetheless, given the right incentives, this tendency can be reversed. While humans are not destined to obey sexual impulses in the face of subsequent starvation, Mises also recognized that human foresight (voluntary population planning) can be undermined by cultural factors, and we should include the impact of government incentives and disincentives. Observe what Mises had to say about the presence of life-promoting technologies among human populations whose cultural traditions have not assimilated the capitalistic Western habit of smaller, more affluent populations. Furthermore, remember that these paragraphs were written between 1934 and 1940; consequently, their perspective is dated.
 
Historical experience shows that all Caucasian peoples reacted to the drop in mortality figures brought about by capitalism with a drop in the birth rate. Of course, from such historical experience no general law may be deduced. But praxeological reflection demonstrates that there exists between these two phenomena a necessary concatenation. An improvement in the external conditions of well-being makes possible a corresponding increase in population figures. However, if the additional quantity of the means of sustenance is completely absorbed by rearing an additional number of people, nothing is left for a further improvement in the standard of living. The march of civilization is arrested; mankind reaches a state of stagnation.
 
The case becomes still more obvious if we assume that a prophylactic invention is made by a lucky chance and that its practical application requires neither a considerable investment of capital nor considerable current expenditure. Of course, modern medical research and still more its utilization absorb huge amounts of capital and labor. They are products of capitalism. They would never have come into existence in a noncapitalist environment. But there were, in earlier days, instances of a different character. The practice of smallpox inoculation did not originate from expensive laboratory research and, in its original crude form, could be applied at trifling costs. Now, what would the results of smallpox inoculation have been if its practice had become general in a precapitalist country not committed to birth control? It would have increased population figures without increasing sustenance. It would have impaired the average standard of living. It would not have been a blessing, but a curse.
 
….These backward peoples receive the devices for fighting and preventing disease ready-made from the West. Often they are not even charged for the drugs, the hospital equipment, and the services of the doctors.…It is true that in some of these countries imported foreign capital and the adoption of foreign technological methods by the comparatively small domestic capital synchronously tend to increase the per capita output of labor and thus to bring about a tendency toward an improvement in the average standard of living. However, this does not sufficiently counterbalance the opposite tendency resulting from the drop in mortality rates not accompanied by an adequate fall in fertility rates. The contact with the West has not yet benefited these peoples because it has not yet affected their minds; it has not freed them from age-old superstitions, prejudices, and misapprehensions; it has merely altered their technological and therapeutical knowledge.
 
Please note that Mises assigns great importance to the existence of a flourishing free-market ethos and private-property as the only way to successfully incorporate advanced technologies without triggering an unsustainable population increase.
 
The reformers of the oriental peoples want to secure for their fellow citizens the material well-being that the Western nations enjoy. Deluded by Marxian, nationalist, and militarist ideas they think that all that is needed for the attainment of this end is the introduction of European and American technology. Neither the Slavonic Bolsheviks and nationalists nor their sympathizers in the Indies, in China, and in Japan realize that what their peoples need most is not Western technology, but the social order which in addition to other achievements has generated this technological knowledge. They lack first of all economic freedom and private initiative, entrepreneurs and capitalism. But they look only for engineers and machines. What separates East and West is the social and economic system. The East is foreign to the Western spirit that has created capitalism. It is of no use to import the paraphernalia of capitalism without admitting capitalism as such. No achievement of capitalist civilization would have been accomplished in a noncapitalistic environment or can be preserved in a world without a market economy.
 
Mises on Birth Control
 
Mises clearly understood the value of a culture of free-market capitalism. Consequently, he understood that anti-market cultures and ideologies – especially Marxism – have a tendency to destroy or otherwise vitiate the benefits produced by free markets. In particular, a non-capitalist or Marxian culture will undermine the benefits of capitalism and breathe new life into the Malthusian thesis. More to the point, the existence of the modern proto-Marxian welfare state leads to many of the population and environmental overuse phenomenon that a capitalist ethos of private property would prevent. As Mises points out, it is not surprising that coercive population-control methods have been imposed in socialist countries (such as in  the People’s Republic of China) to respond to the overpopulation problems caused by the introduction of capitalistic production methods among populations that are culturally out of step with its benefits (as Marxian economies and traditional societies are):
 
A socialist commonwealth would be under the necessity of regulating the fertility rate by authoritarian control. It would have to regiment the sexual life of its wards no less than all other spheres of their conduct. In the market economy every individual is spontaneously intent upon not begetting children whom he could not rear without considerably lowering his family's standard of life. Thus the growth of population beyond the optimum size as determined by the supply of capital available and the state of technological knowledge is checked. The interests of each individual coincide with those of all other individuals.
 
Those fighting birth control want to eliminate a device indispensable for the preservation of peaceful human cooperation and the social division of labor. Where the average standard of living is impaired by the excessive increase in population figures, irreconcilable conflicts of interests arise. Each individual is again a rival of all other individuals in the struggle for survival. The annihilation of rivals is the only mans of increasing one's own well-being. The philosophers and theologians who assert that birth control is contrary to the laws of God and Nature refuse to see things as they really are. Nature straitens the material means required for the improvement of human wellbeing and survival. As natural conditions are, man has only the choice between the pitiless war of each against each or social cooperation. But social cooperation is impossible if people give rein to the natural impulse of proliferation. In restricting procreation man adjusts himself to the natural conditions of his existence. The rationalization of the sexual passions is an indispensable condition of civilization and societal bonds. Its abandonment would in the long run not increase but decrease the numbers of those surviving, and would render life for everyone as poor and miserable as it was many thousands of years ago for our ancestors.
 
The Message of Mises
 
Those who dismiss the problems associated with pollution, overpopulation, and over-stimulated growth (as opposed to prosperity) ignore the pervasive influence of statism and its crippling effects on self-regulating market forces. These crippling effects include a “muting” of the otherwise automatic population-pressure adjustments that Mises described earlier. The result is a falling standard of living and the same types of deprivation that Malthus described. Moreover, the tendency to adopt an in-your-face preference for maximum consumption and population growth and to minimize ecological concerns flies in the face of praxeology. Why don’t libertarian writers of this persuasion follow the examples that they have established with respect to Federal Reserve practices? For example, many fine libertarian writers issued prescient financial warnings during the 1990s and early years of the new Millennium. They wrote lucidly about the skewed market signals that were the result of inflationary Federal Reserve practices and loan-regulation policies. They warned us about the dot-com bubble and the subsequent credit and housing bubbles. Unfortunately, many of these otherwise-insightful writers failed to apply those same insights and tools to the false signals sent out by the government when it comes to resource consumption, population, pollution, and the use of toxic substances. After all, if the cost of warring U.S. and British troops stationed in petroleum-producing areas of the world were fully reflected in energy prices instead of hidden and redistributed in taxes, what would be the result? How much oil does $1 trillion per year in “defense” spending buy? What if the zooming costs of empire and the destruction of the World Trade Center (I do not consider the Pentagon to be a thing of value) were factored into the price of gasoline?
 
If fuel prices were significantly higher – two, three, four times as much – and if the government did not subsidize child-rearing through tax incentives and various subsidies, how would this be reflected in our dependence on the automobile and in our housing practices? What would be the size, shape, and configuration of our cities and entire civilization without these factors? Please understand that this is not a diatribe against four-wheel travel or modern civilization. I am simply pointing out that a change in only one or two factors can have a remarkable effect on how we live and make personal choices. Mises reflects on this aspect of the free market throughout his writings.
 
 I am not unaware of the objection that petroleum prices could actually be lower than they are now if a free market reigned throughout the world. Once again, however, we cannot be certain. That is why I again remind libertarians that an agnostic position is well supported by libertarian theory. We simply cannot know, and it does not help to pretend that we do. To begin, the normal, downward-sloping population curve of industrial societies might be even more pronounced than it is now if all government meddling was removed. How many children would people birth under circumstances where there are no subsidies? Furthermore, without the tax subsidies funneled into road building and urban sprawl, what would be the configuration of our cities? Would they be more like the dense, closely hemmed-in urban environments of the Middle Ages through the 19th century, or would other technologies completely eliminate the urban environment? We don’t know. Similarly, nobody can say what the carrying capacity of earth is – given the state of any technology or the accompanying social ethos. But does it make sense to claim that more is always better when it comes to population growth? Isn’t this the same kind of central-planning type of statement that big-government environmentalists use? At a level of personal choice and personal responsibility, a “more is better” population preference can be harmless. But if we elevate that preference to a policy recommendation for mankind, it is no longer sound or harmless. It is an invitation to ignore the feedback that the marketplace provides. It is the realm of the central planner. There can be no libertarian “policy” in this matter other than market-based agnosticism.
 
I will not address the topics of water-table and surface salts and underground plumes of toxic substances resulting from desert irrigation and runoff from petroleum processing and military facilities. You can probably guess the direction of the argument yourselves. Try to remember some of the wisdom imparted by Terry Anderson and Donald Leal in the book, Free Market Environmentalism. For example, they showed that federal agricultural policies encourage farmers to cultivate far more marginal acreage than would be economically feasible in a free market. Is it not possible that the entire, centralized, government-subsidized agri-business would collapse in a free market? Think of the many congress-critters paid off by the powerful agricultural lobby. Is it not possible that a much larger percentage of agricultural production would be conducted locally if the subsidized agri-business, tax-subsidized desert irrigation mania, and road-building fetish did not hold sway? The point is that we do not know, and we should not pretend that we do. Similarly, as libertarians, we know that big-government measures cannot successfully address the issue of global warming – whether it is caused by man, is the result of solar variances, or does not exist at all. Let the market decide, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the status quo resembles a free market even faintly. It is, instead, a twisted hybrid Rosemary’s Baby spawned by big-government bureaucrats and crony capitalists – not a pretty sight. Let’s not pretend that it is, and let’s not ask for more of it and more of its byproducts. After all, aren’t libertarians the ones who should step into the role of the little boy who pointed out that the Emperor’s New Clothes were nothing but a product of churlish sycophancy?

 

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Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture
Columns on STR: 35

Lawrence Ludlow is a freelance writer living in San Diego.  

Comments

D. Saul Weiner's picture

Regarding family size, eliminating social security, medicare, and the like would tend to bolster it, since people would then need to place greater reliance in their old age on their children, as they have done in earlier times.

In simpler societies, it is clearer what the carrying capacity of the "local economy" was and how much a tribe could afford to grow (absent warfare or other aggression). Today, it is obviously more difficult to tell and it comes down to an assessment of standard of living, as Mises describes. But people can be greatly fooled by government interference about these things, as the recent financial breakdown reminds us, and as descibed here.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rozeff/rozeff284.html

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Dear Saul: Yes, you can see the complexity of it -- it can go either way depending upon how the various contributing causes are weighted. That's why I urge the "market-agnostic" approach in which individuals make their own decisions and respect others' property rights in so doing. It is very possible that the host of government interventions have indeed created a "population bubble" that resembles the dot-com bubble, the real-estate bubble, and the related financial and purchasing bubbles. That's why I so abhor the constant theme of the apologia-type of essay that defends population growth as an unmitigated good that is unworthy of concern by libertarians. That one-sided approach is a perfect analogy to cheer-leading for the latest government bubbles. Again, thanks for reading and for your comments.

Mark Davis's picture

I thought you were a little harsh on some good writers yesterday, but you did a good job of explaining your position today. I look forward to Part III tomorrow.

Have you seen the movie "Idiocracy"? It offers a funny look at what happens when smart people stop breeding and idiots don't.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Hi, Mark: Yes, I love "Idiocracy." It should be screened outside of every voting booth on election day -- but that would ruin the fun of the farce, wouldn't it! Recently in San Diego (election night) a group of us invaded Golden Hall (where the politicians loiter on election nignt), and we carried signs such as "Democracy: killed Socrates and elected Hitler, Dubya, and Obama." Jom Bovard's web site covered our antics, complete with pictures.
http://jimbovard.com/blog/2010/11/04/more-fine-hell-raising-by-san-diego...

And I understand your concerns about the critiques in yesterday's essay. But I had to show how widespread the bias is among the many fine libertarian web sites. It really is pervasive and monolithic -- to a disturbing degree. Then, when you contrast it with the rich heritage of lengthy arguments and quotes directly from Mises' greatest work and supplemented by Rothbard, you have to ask yourself: what can they possibly be thinking? And: why are they doing this? Sometimes -- at least in academic circles -- when one plants one's flag in the sand on an issue, even if it is wrong, it becomes one's "brand," and then one must exhibit loyalty to the brand out of sheer vanity in a silly display of what Emerson warned us against: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Except they are not little minds. They are talented people who simply cannot cough up a decent mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I hope they re-evaluate their stance on this important issue.

Thanks for reading and thinking.

D. Saul Weiner's picture

Much as I admire Lew Rockwell, I am not comfortable with some of the statements he has made on environmental matters. But, in his defense, there IS a need to confront the hysteria and bullying that the environmentalists resort to from time to time. Otherwise, people will just take their positions as gospel. You might say, well just respond to it with facts and logic, which is the usual libertarian way. And we should. But the sad fact of the matter is that facts and logic often fail to sway large numbers of people; some level of emotional appeal is often necessary. Case in point, look at the great work that Lew has recently done in combatting TSA tyranny; it certainly has gone well beyond a reporting of the facts. So I think this human reality needs to be considered. I am not sure what the best way to respond to exaggerated threats, but our work is cut out for us in this regard.

And for the record, I DO believe that there are very serious environmental problems that need to be addressed, but I get frustrated when the movement focuses on the wrong problems or the wrong solutions, which unfortunately is all too often.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

A commenter on yesterday's page made a good observation: the best answer to a lie is not another lie. So I understand why Lew does this, but he is unintentionally mis-educating a new generation of libertarians by pretending that the viewpoint in this article does not exist. You should know that I contacted him 2 years ago about this very issue (also mentioned Hoppe and Ron Paul in a critical but admiring way), and his answer was the cone of silence. They pretend this argument does not exist. I included the religious section (part 3) because some Catholics feel compelled to be defensive about having children, so I thought I'd head it off at the pass. I have noted that Lew's acolytes also repeat -- without knowledge -- what they have learned. Mr. Kramer, who posts on the site, is so cavalier with this issue that he basically refers to the entire Malthus as done and gone, completely dealt with and proven wrong. And I doubt that Kramer has either read Mises or Malthus -- but he has received an opinion from someone he respects and now repeats is with all the assurance of an acolyte. So Lew has not only dismissed the socialist environmentalists, but he has deceitfully pretended that the arguments presented here do not exist. In so doing, he has dismissed and mis-represented a credible and thoughtful libertarian position -- in effect throwing Mises under the bus in the same way that Obama did with Jeremiah Wright (who David Henderson showed was accurate for the most part!). So Lew's approach is really dead wrong and is training up a generation of misinformed people. In advertising, they call this "eating your own dog food." It means that you have so absorbed the message of your client that you are no longer critical of it -- so much so that you now believe that it is indeed the miracle food that your ads have claimed it to be. Sadly, Lew is eating the dog food, and his followers are as well -- and they don't know (as Lew surely does) that it is dog food. On this issue, Lew is, indeed, a Lewciferian.

willnmcl's picture

I have very much appreciated this second part as I did the first. I must confess Malthus was very difficult reading for me as was some of Ludlow. I particularly appreciated the conclusions stated under the heading "The Message of Mises" starting with that very fine first sentence.

I like very much the notion of agnosticism regarding outcomes. I've had many discussions with a religious conservative cousin on the War of Secession, the two world wars and others and she once asked me how I knew things would be better if they had been done with my way of thinking. I said something like, " I DON'T know. I want to stick with what I believe to be healthy moral principles and I'll take my chances on the results". I have always had some misgivings about what a thoroughly libertarian society would be like but have always concluded that I would sure as hell like to find out, SOON! Professional football isn't my favorite example of goodness in humanity but a nice quote was when Parcells took over the Cowboys and they asked him how he expected his team to perform and he said "we're fixin' to find out" I hope we can find out. I'm firmly for market-based agnosticism

Agriculture of the natural, sustainable, organic kind has always been near and dear to my heart and it has always been a disappointment to me that seemingly most libertarian thinkers hold it in little regard. To quote from the final paragraph "Think of the many congress-critters paid off by the powerful agricultural lobby. Is it not possible that a much larger percentage of agricultural production would be conducted locally if the subsidized agri-business, tax-subsidized desert irrigation mania, and road-building fetish did not hold sway?" My answer is yes it is possible and maybe many of the folks now unemployed in cities might have their fingers in the dirt and sun on small farms whence their best livelihood comes.

Thank you Mr Ludlow.

Will Palmer

Paul's picture

"Much as I admire Lew Rockwell, I am not comfortable with some of the statements he has made on environmental matters. But, in his defense, there IS a need to confront the hysteria and bullying that the environmentalists resort to from time to time... You might say, well just respond to it with facts and logic, which is the usual libertarian way. And we should. But..."

No "buts" about it. If you are going to respond to lies with "emotional appeals" (a euphemism for more lies), then we are no better than the "environmentalists".

This is an excellent series of articles, and much needed. Well done, Lawrence.

I have never understood the need for "libertarians" to sneer, for example, at people recycling. Yes, by all means, criticize *forced* recycling. But so what if people voluntarily recycle, even in a way that makes no economic or environmental sense? It's none of your business, any more than it is their business whether or not you drive an SUV. Eventually they will figure it out; they don't need your "help" to set them right. We should indeed "stick to our knitting": if force is involved, we are agin' it. Otherwise, we're agnostics.

If we want to appeal outside our little clique, we need to stop antagonizing others unnecessarily. That's basic human relations, something libertarians are notoriously bad at.

D. Saul Weiner's picture

Sorry Paul, emotional appeals do NOT equal lies, though they sometimes take that form. They are sometimes quite justified, to get people to rethink their positions, consult their consciences.

I too am glad that Lawrence has written these articles, as I stated in an earlier comment.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Paul, I have to agree that to the degree Lew mis-represents libertarian theory, he is, in effect, lying. There is a similar concept for those who willingly refuse to disclose that this argument exist. That is called "card stacking" in the realm of rhetoric, and it is a kissin' cousin with outright lying. As a friend of mine once said: their are lies, and there are lying arguments (including invalid argument forms), and both are meant to deceive. I'm really pleased that I had so much company on this issue. I was unable to get these ideas past the transom at either lewrockwell.com, mises.org, fff.org, and fee.org. There was a deafening silence. I so admire the people at these organizations, but when they begin to act like smug organizations with all of the inbred behaviors of such things, it wounds me terribly because I always expect better of my fellow libertarians.

B.R. Merrick's picture

"The philosophers and theologians who assert that birth control is contrary to the laws of God and Nature refuse to see things as they really are." I think of Puerto Rico, the number of poor people living there, and the predominate religion, which teaches to this very day that use of birth control is evil. This is why it is not enough for libertarians to oppose government, but all systems of coercion, including a religion that preaches such nonsense. The Roman Catholic Church may be a less intrusive system of coercion, but the end result is the same as with government action: death.

And I openly confess that I, too, could very well be branded as a writer who has failed in this regard. I shall strive in the future to emphasize the beauty of the free market and its solutions over whether or not ideas of population should be "pro" or "con." Thanks, Lawrence.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

BRMerrick: Your assessment of cultural/religious influences is correct. They play a role in our outlook, and they can often be positive or negative. For example, I was raised as a Catholic and even went through a graduate school medieval program staffed to a significant degree by Basilian monks. There was much that was positive there and also a big helping of hypocrisy as there always will be within organizations. What I was so saddened by was Lew's abject refusal to consider that he might be wrong -- which is actually the antithesis of Catholic teaching (which on that issue is called "examination of the conscience"). Sadly, Lew has adopted a cracker-barrel version of Catholicism that is very artificial and compartmentalized. It could have been rich with associations because compared to most Christian groups (surprisingly), there is a rich tradition of dissent and non-monolithic practice within Catholicism, and Lew does himself and other believers a great disservice in adopting a stance that betrays this richness. As someone pointed out in a thread to the first segment, Lew has basically chosen to hate the socialist greens more than he loves liberty. In so doing, he has allowed his disgust for the lefties to dominate his interpretation of libertarians. This is the same fault that conservatives and liberals have made. Each group hates the other side more than it is willing to do the right thing. Consequently, both of them become guilty of hypocrisy when they are holding the ring of power even though they correctly criticize their opponents when they are in power. The result? Always more statism. Within the libertarian circle, the anti-green rhetoric has so distorted libertarianism that truth has been a victim, and the "complex" of contributors to the Lew-affiliated groups such as FEE, FFF, Mises.org, and Lewrockwell.com have all adopted an identical, rigid, and WRONG stance and for the same reason. We should all be grateful that Rob at STR is willing to air columns such as these. I can assure you that all of the web sites in the "complex" mentioned a few lines ago were opposed to the idea of this article. And really, it isn't so crazy at all. I first realized the depth of the Mises heritage in this regard when our San Diego Mises Monday group was reading through "Human Action," of which I had previously only read about 33% of the total. That the web sites in the "complex" were so hostile to mentioning Mises views on this topic really floored me. Even within my group in San Diego, there was significant push-back at one stage. Now, however, this thesis is considered non-controversial. But at the time, the hackles were out! Thanks again for reading. It was a long piece, and Jeffrey Tucker at Mises.org said it was vituperative, but when I look back on the opposition I faced in getting it out there, I felt it was important to document the degree of opposition and twisting that I was encountering. The comment by Sheldon Richman (in the thread of the first installment) shows how formulaic and rigid are the subsequent denials. That bunch will never openly admit they were wrong about this or that they even opposed it. They simply pretend you don't exist. For Lew to take such a stance is, again, very un-Catholic because a good Catholic confession requires a sincere awareness of the fault and open confession of it as well as at least an attempt to avoid it in the future. And I'm not even a practicing Catholic!

B.R. Merrick's picture

"Sadly, Lew has adopted a cracker-barrel version of Catholicism that is very artificial and compartmentalized." Yes, that is sad. Mormonism, which is far younger than Catholicism, started on that road decades ago. Belief in The Joseph Smith Story is essentially mandatory, and if you don't believe it, there is something wrong with you spiritually that has to be set right. Dissension from officialdom is sinful. (Oddly, officialdom has a tendency to change over time.) Thank Pretend God for open debate.

:)