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CHAPTER 4: Liberalism and the Political Parties - Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: The Classical Tradition (LF ed.) 
Liberalism: The Classical Tradition, trans. Ralph Raico, ed. Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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Liberalism and the Political Parties
The “Doctrinairism” of the Liberals
Classical liberalism has been reproached with being too obstinate and not ready enough to compromise. It was because of its inflexibility that it was defeated in its struggle with the nascent anticapitalist parties of all kinds. If it had realized, as these other parties did, the importance of compromise and concession to popular slogans in winning the favor of the masses, it would have been able to preserve at least some of its influence. But it has never bothered to build for itself a party organization and a party machine as the anticapitalist parties have done. It has never attached any importance to political tactics in electoral campaigns and parliamentary proceedings. It has never gone in for scheming opportunism or political bargaining. This unyielding doctrinairism necessarily brought about the decline of liberalism.
The factual assertions contained in these statements are entirely in accordance with the truth, but to believe that they constitute a reproach against liberalism is to reveal a complete misunderstanding of its essential spirit. The ultimate and most profound of the fundamental insights of liberal thought is that it is ideas that constitute the foundation on which the whole edifice of human social cooperation is constructed and sustained and that a lasting social structure cannot be built on the basis of false and mistaken ideas. Nothing can serve as a substitute for an ideology that enhances human life by fostering social cooperation—least of all lies, whether they be called “tactics,” “diplomacy,” or “compromise.” If men will not, from a recognition of social necessity, voluntarily do what must be done if society is to be maintained and general well-being advanced, no one can lead them to the right path by any cunning stratagem or artifice. If they err and go astray, then one must endeavor to enlighten them by instruction. But if they cannot be enlightened, if they persist in error, then nothing can be done to prevent catastrophe. All the tricks and lies of demagogic politicians may well be suited to promote the cause of those who, whether in good faith or bad, work for the destruction of society. But the cause of social progress, the cause of the further development and intensification of social bonds, cannot be advanced by lies and demagogy. No power on earth, no crafty stratagem or clever deception could succeed in duping mankind into accepting a social doctrine that it not only does not acknowledge, but openly spurns.
The only way open to anyone who wishes to lead the world back to liberalism is to convince his fellow citizens of the necessity of adopting the liberal program. This work of enlightenment is the sole task that the liberal can and must perform in order to avert as much as lies within his power the destruction toward which society is rapidly heading today. There is no place here for concessions to any of the favorite or customary prejudices and errors. In regard to questions that will decide whether or not society is to continue to exist at all, whether millions of people are to prosper or perish, there is no room for compromise either from weakness or from misplaced deference for the sensibilities of others.
If liberal principles once again are allowed to guide the policies of great nations, if a revolution in public opinion could once more give capitalism free rein, the world will be able gradually to raise itself from the condition into which the policies of the combined anticapitalist factions have plunged it. There is no other way out of the political and social chaos of the present age.
The most serious illusion under which classical liberalism labored was its optimism in regard to the direction that the evolution of society was bound to take. To the champions of liberalism—the sociologists and economists of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century and their supporters—it seemed certain that mankind would advance to ever higher stages of perfection and that nothing would be able to arrest this progress. They were firmly convinced that rational cognition of the fundamental laws of social cooperation and interdependence, which they had discovered, would soon become common and that thereafter the social bonds peacefully uniting mankind would become ever closer, there would be a progressive improvement in general well-being, and civilization would rise to ever higher levels of culture. Nothing could shake their optimism. As the attack on liberalism began to grow steadily fiercer, as the ascendancy of liberal ideas in politics was challenged from all sides, they thought that what they had to contend with was only the last volleys fired in retreat by a moribund system that did not require serious study and counterattack because it would in any case soon collapse of itself.
The liberals were of the opinion that all men have the intellectual capacity to reason correctly about the difficult problems of social cooperation and to act accordingly. They were so impressed with the clarity and self-evidence of the reasoning by which they had arrived at their political ideas that they were quite unable to understand how anyone could fail to comprehend it. They never grasped two facts: first, that the masses lack the capacity to think logically; and secondly, that in the eyes of most people, even when they are able to recognize the truth, a momentary, special advantage that may be enjoyed immediately appears more important than a lasting greater gain that must be deferred. Most people do not have even the intellectual endowments required to think through the—after all very complicated—problems of social cooperation, and they certainly do not have the will power necessary to make those provisional sacrifices that all social action demands. The slogans of interventionism and of socialism, especially proposals for the partial expropriation of private property, always find ready and enthusiastic approval with the masses, who expect to profit directly and immediately from them.
There can be no more grievous misunderstanding of the meaning and nature of liberalism than to think that it would be possible to secure the victory of liberal ideas by resorting to the methods employed today by the other political parties.
In a caste and status society, constituted not of citizens with equal rights, but divided into ranks vested with different duties and prerogatives, there are no political parties in the modern sense. As long as the special privileges and immunities of the different castes are not called into question, peace reigns among them. But once the privileges of caste and status are contested, the issue is joined, and civil war can be avoided only if one side or the other, recognizing its weakness, yields without an appeal to arms. In all such conflicts, the position of each individual is determined from the outset by his status as a member of one caste or another. To be sure, there can be renegades who, in the expectation of being better able to provide for their personal advantage on the side of the enemy, fight against the members of their own caste and are consequently viewed by them as traitors. But, apart from such exceptional cases, the individual is not confronted with the question of which of the opposing groups he ought to join. He stands by the members of his own caste and shares their fate. The caste or castes that are dissatisfied with their position rebel against the prevailing order and have to win their demands against the opposition of the others. The ultimate outcome of the conflict is—if everything does not, in fact, remain as it was because the rebels have been worsted—that the old order is replaced by a new one in which the rights of the various castes are different from what they were before.
With the advent of liberalism came the demand for the abolition of all special privileges. The society of caste and status had to make way for a new order in which there were to be only citizens with equal rights. What was under attack was no longer only the particular privileges of the different castes, but the very existence of all privileges. Liberalism tore down the barriers of rank and status and liberated man from the restrictions with which the old order had surrounded him. It was in capitalist society, under a system of government founded on liberal principles, that the individual was first granted the opportunity to participate directly in political life and was first called upon to make a personal decision in regard to political goals and ideals. In the caste and status society of earlier days, the only political conflicts had been those among the different castes, each of which had formed a solid front in opposition to the others; or, in the absence of such conflicts, there were, within those castes that were permitted a share in political life, factional conflicts among coteries and cliques for influence, power, and a place at the helm. Only under a polity in which all citizens enjoy equal rights—corresponding to the liberal ideal, which has nowhere ever been fully achieved—can there be political parties consisting of associations of persons who want to see their ideas on legislation and administration put into effect. For there can very well be differences of opinion concerning the best way to achieve the liberal aim of assuring peaceful social cooperation, and these differences of opinion must join issue as conflicts of ideas.
Thus, in a liberal society there could be socialist parties too. Even parties that seek to have a special legal position conceded to particular groups would not be impossible under a liberal system. But all these parties must acknowledge liberalism (at least temporarily, until they emerge victorious) so far as to make use in their political struggles solely of the weapons of the intellect, which liberalism views as the only ones permissible in such contests, even though, in the last analysis, as socialists or as champions of special privileges, the members of the antiliberal parties reject the liberal philosophy. Thus, some of the pre-Marxist “utopian” socialists fought for socialism within the framework of liberalism, and in the golden age of liberalism in western Europe, the clergy and the nobility tried to achieve their ends within the framework of a modern constitutional state.
The parties that we see at work today are of an entirely different kind. To be sure, some part of their program is concerned with the whole of society and purports to address itself to the problem of how social cooperation is to be achieved. But what this part of their program says is only a concession wrung from them by the liberal ideology. What they aim at in reality is set forth in another part of their program, which is the only part that they pay any attention to and which stands in irreconcilable contradiction to the part that is couched in terms of the general welfare. Present-day political parties are the champions not only of certain of the privileged orders of earlier days that desire to see preserved and extended traditional prerogatives that liberalism had to allow them to keep because its victory was not complete, but also of certain groups that strive for special privileges, that is to say, that desire to attain the status of a caste. Liberalism addresses itself to all and proposes a program acceptable to all alike. It promises no one privileges. By calling for the renunciation of the pursuit of special interests, it even demands sacrifices, though, of course, only provisional ones, involving the giving up of a relatively small advantage in order to attain a greater one. But the parties of special interests address themselves only to a part of society. To this part, for which alone they intend to work, they promise special advantages at the expense of the rest of society.
All modern political parties and all modern party ideologies originated as a reaction on the part of special group interests fighting for a privileged status against liberalism. Before the rise of liberalism, there were, of course, privileged orders with their special interests and prerogatives and their mutual conflicts, but at that time the ideology of the status society could still express itself in a completely naive and unembarrassed way. In the conflicts that occurred in those days between the champions and the opponents of special privilege, there was never any question of the antisocial character of the whole system nor any need of maintaining the pretense of justifying it on social grounds. One cannot, therefore, draw any direct comparison between the old system of privileged orders and the activities and propaganda of the present-day parties of special interests.
To understand the true character of all these parties, one must keep in mind the fact that they were originally formed solely as a defense of special privileges against the teachings of liberalism. Their party doctrines are not, like those of liberalism, the political application of a comprehensive, carefully thought-out theory of society. The political ideology of liberalism was derived from a fundamental system of ideas that had first been developed as a scientific theory without any thought of its political significance. In contradistinction to this, the special rights and privileges sought by the antiliberal parties were, from the very outset, already realized in existing social institutions, and it was in justification of the latter that one undertook subsequently to elaborate an ideology, a task that was generally treated as a matter of little moment that could easily be disposed of with a few brief words. Farm groups think it sufficient to point out the indispensability of agriculture. The trade unions appeal to the indispensability of labor. The parties of the middle class cite the importance of the existence of a social stratum that represents the golden mean. It seems to trouble them little that such appeals contribute nothing to proving the necessity or even the advantageousness to the general public of the special privileges they are striving for. The groups that they desire to win over will follow them in any case, and as for the others, every attempt at recruiting supporters from their ranks would be futile.
Thus, all these modern parties of special interests, no matter how far apart their goals may diverge or how violently they may contend against one another, form a united front in the battle against liberalism. In the eyes of all of them, the principle of liberalism that the rightly understood interests of all men are, in the long run, compatible is like a red cloth waved in front of a bull. As they see it, there are irreconcilable conflicts of interests that can be settled only by the victory of one faction over the others, to the advantage of the former and the disadvantage of the latter. Liberalism, these parties assert, is not what it pretends to be. It too is nothing but a party program seeking to champion the special interests of a particular group, the bourgeoisie, i.e., the capitalists and entrepreneurs, against the interests of all other groups.
The fact that this allegation forms part of the propaganda of Marxism accounts for much of the latter’s success. If the doctrine of the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of different classes within a society based on private ownership of the means of production is taken as the essential dogma of Marxism, then all the parties active today on the European continent would have to be considered as Marxist. The doctrine of class antagonisms and of class conflict is also accepted by the nationalist parties in so far as they share the opinion that these antagonisms do exist in capitalist society and that the conflicts to which they give rise must run their course. What distinguishes them from the Marxist parties is only that they wish to overcome class conflict by reverting to a status society constituted along the lines that they recommend and by shifting the battlefront to the international arena, where they believe it should be. They do not dispute the statement that conflicts of this kind occur in a society based on private ownership of the means of production. They merely contend that such antagonisms ought not to arise, and in order to eliminate them, they want to guide and regulate private property by acts of government interference; they want interventionism in place of capitalism. But, in the last analysis, this is in no way different from what the Marxists say. They too promise to lead the world to a new social order in which there will be no more classes, class antagonisms, or class conflicts.
In order to grasp the meaning of the doctrine of the class war, one must bear in mind that it is directed against the liberal doctrine of the harmony of the rightly understood interests of all members of a free society founded on the principle of private ownership of the means of production. The liberals maintained that with the elimination of all the artificial distinctions of caste and status, the abolition of all privileges, and the establishment of equality before the law, nothing else stands in the way of the peaceful cooperation of all members of society, because then their rightly understood, long-run interests coincide. All the objections that the champions of feudalism, of special privileges, and of distinctions of caste and status sought to advance against this doctrine soon proved quite unjustified and were unable to gain any notable support. But in Ricardo’s system of catallactics one may find the point of departure for a new theory of the conflict of interests within the capitalist system. Ricardo believed that he could show how, in the course of progressive economic development, a shift takes place in the relations among the three forms of income in his system, viz., profit, rent, and wages. It was this that impelled a few English writers in the third and fourth decades of the nineteenth century to speak of the three classes of capitalists, landowners, and wage-laborers and to maintain that an irreconcilable antagonism exists among these groups. This line of thought was later taken up by Marx.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx still did not distinguish between caste and class. Only later, when he became acquainted in London with the writings of the forgotten pamphleteers of the twenties and thirties and, under their influence, began the study of Ricardo’s system, did he realize that the problem in this case was to show that even in a society without caste distinctions and privileges irreconcilable conflicts still exist. This antagonism of interests he deduced from Ricardo’s system by distinguishing among the three classes of capitalists, landowners, and workers. But he by no means adhered firmly to this distinction. Sometimes he asserts that there are only two classes, the propertied and the propertyless; at other times he distinguishes among more classes than just the two or three great ones. At no time, however, did Marx or any one of his many followers attempt in any way to define the concept and nature of the classes. It is significant that the chapter entitled “The Classes” in the third volume of Capital breaks off after a few sentences. More than a generation elapsed from the appearance of the Communist Manifesto, in which Marx first makes class antagonism and class war the keystone of his entire doctrine, to the time of his death. During this entire period Marx wrote volume after volume, but he never came to the point of explaining what is to be understood by a “class.” In his treatment of the problem of classes Marx never went beyond the mere statement, without any proof, of a dogma or, let us rather say, of a slogan.
In order to prove that the doctrine of class warfare is true, one would have to be able to establish two facts: on the one hand, that there is an identity of interests among the members of each class; and, on the other hand, that what benefits one class injures the other. This, however, has never been accomplished. Indeed, it has never even been attempted. Precisely because “class comrades” are all in the same “social situation,” there is no identity of interests among them, but rather competition. The worker, for example, who is employed under better-than-average conditions has an interest in excluding competitors who could reduce his income to the average level. In the decades when the doctrine of the international solidarity of the proletariat was proclaimed time and time again in verbose resolutions adopted at the international Marxist congresses, the workers of the United States and Australia set up the greatest obstacles to immigration. By means of a complex network of petty regulations, the English trade unions made impossible the entrance of outsiders into their branches of labor. What has been done by the labor parties in this regard in every country during the last few years is well known. Of course, one can say that this ought not to have happened; the workers ought to have acted differently; what they did was wrong. But one cannot deny that it directly served their interests—at least for the moment.
Liberalism has demonstrated that the antagonism of interests, which, according to a widely prevalent opinion, is supposed to exist among different persons, groups, and strata within a society based on private ownership of the means of production, does not, in fact, occur. Any increase in total capital raises the income of capitalists and landowners absolutely and that of workers both absolutely and relatively. As regards their income, any shifts in the various interests of the different groups and strata of society—the entrepreneurs, capitalists, landowners, and workers—occur together and move in the same direction as they pass through different phases in their fluctuations; what varies is only the ratio of their shares of the social product. The interests of the landowners oppose those of the members of the other groups only in the one case of a genuine monopoly of a certain mineral. The interests of the entrepreneurs can never diverge from those of the consumers. The entrepreneur prospers the better, the better he is able to anticipate the desires of the consumers.
Conflicts of interests can occur only in so far as restrictions on the owners’ free disposal of the means of production are imposed by the interventionist policy of the government or by interference on the part of other social forces armed with coercive power. For example, the price of a certain article can be artificially raised by a protective tariff, or the wages of a certain group of workers can be increased by excluding all competitors for their jobs. The famous line of reasoning of the free-trade school, never refuted and forever irrefutable, applies to cases of this kind. Such special privileges can, of course, benefit the particular group on whose behalf they were instituted only if other groups have been unable to win similar privileges for themselves. But it cannot be assumed that it would be possible, in the long run, to deceive the majority of the people about the real significance of such special privileges so that they will tolerate them willingly. Yet if one undertakes to use force to compel their acceptance, one will provoke violent rebellion—in short, a disturbance of the peaceful course of social cooperation, the preservation of which is in the interest of everyone. If one seeks to solve the problem by making these special privileges, not exceptions on behalf of just one or a few persons, groups, or strata of society, but the general rule, as, for example, by resorting to import duties to protect most of the articles sold on the home market, or by using similar measures to bar access to the majority of occupations, the advantages gained by each particular group are counterbalanced by the disadvantages that they must suffer, and the end result is only that all are injured by the consequent lowering of the productivity of labor.
If one rejects this doctrine of liberalism, if one heaps ridicule on the controversial theory of the “harmony of interests of all men,” then it is not true, either, as is wrongly assumed by all schools of antiliberal thought, that there could still be a solidarity of interests within narrower circles, as, for instance, among members of the same nation (as against other nations) or among members of the same “class” (as against other classes). In order to demonstrate the existence of such an alleged solidarity, a special line of reasoning would be necessary that no one has followed or has even attempted to follow. For all the arguments that could be employed to prove the existence of a solidarity of interests among the members of any of these groups prove much more besides, viz., the universal solidarity of interests within ecumenical society. How those apparent conflicts of interest that seem at first sight to be irreconcilable are in fact resolved can be shown only by means of a line of reasoning that treats all mankind as an essentially harmonious community and allows no room for the demonstration of any irreconcilable antagonisms among nations, classes, races, and the like.
The antiliberal parties do not, as they believe, prove that there is any solidarity of interests within nations, classes, races, etc. All that they actually do is to recommend to the members of these particular groups alliances for a common struggle against all other groups. When they speak of a solidarity of interests within these groups, they are not so much affirming a fact as stating a postulate. In reality, they are not saying, “The interests are identical,” but rather, “The interests ought to be made identical by an alliance for united action.”
The modern parties of special interests declare quite frankly and unequivocally, from the very outset, that the aim of their policy is the creation of special privileges for a particular group. Agrarian parties strive for protective tariffs and other advantages (e.g., subsidies) for farmers; civil service parties aim at securing privileges for bureaucrats; regional parties are dedicated to gaining special advantages for the inhabitants of a certain region. All these parties evidently seek nothing but the advantage of a single group in society, without consideration of the whole of society or of all other groups, however much they may seek to palliate their procedure by declaring that the welfare of the whole of society can be achieved only by furthering the interests of agriculture, the civil service, etc. Indeed, their exclusive concern with but a single segment of society and their labors and endeavors on its behalf alone have become increasingly obvious and more cynical with the passage of the years. When the modern antiliberal movements were still in their infancy, they had to be more circumspect in regard to such matters, because the generation that had been reared on the liberal philosophy had learned to look upon the undisguised advocacy of the special interests of various groups as antisocial.
The champions of special interests can form great parties only by composing a single combat unit out of the combined forces of various groups whose special interests are in conflict. Privileges granted to a particular group, however, have practical value only when they accrue to a minority and are not outweighed by the privileges granted to another group. But unless circumstances are exceptionally favorable, a small group cannot hope at present, while the liberal condemnation of the privileges of the nobility still retains some traces of its earlier influence, to be able to have their claim to be treated as a privileged class prevail against all other groups. The problem of all the parties of special interests, therefore, is to form great parties out of relatively small groups with differing and, indeed, directly conflicting interests. But in view of the mentality that leads these smaller parties to put forth and defend their demands for special privileges, it is quite impracticable to achieve this end by way of an open alliance among the various groups. No provisional sacrifice can be asked of the man who strives for the acquisition of a privileged position for his own group or even for himself alone; if he were capable of understanding the reason for making the provisional sacrifice, then he would certainly think along liberal lines and not in terms of the demands of those engaged in the scramble for special privileges. Nor can one openly tell him that he will gain more from the privilege intended for him than he will lose from the privileges that he will have to concede to others, for any speeches and writings to this effect could not, in the long run, remain hidden from the others and would impel them to raise their demands even higher.
Thus, the parties of special interests are obliged to be cautious. In speaking of this most important point in their endeavors, they must resort to ambiguous expressions intended to obscure the true state of affairs. Protectionist parties are the best example of this kind of equivocation. They must always be careful to represent the interest in the protective tariffs they recommend as that of a wider group. When associations of manufacturers advocate protective tariffs, the party leaders generally take care not to mention that the interests of individual groups and often even of individual concerns are by no means identical and harmonious. The weaver is injured by tariffs on machines and yarn and will promote the protectionist movement only in the expectation that textile tariffs will be high enough to compensate him for the loss that he suffers from the other tariffs. The farmer who grows fodder demands tariffs on fodder, which the cattle raisers oppose; the winegrower demands a tariff on wine, which is just as disadvantageous to the farmer who does not happen to cultivate a vineyard as it is to the urban consumer. Nevertheless, the protectionists appear as a single party united behind a common program. This is made possible only by throwing a veil of obscurity over the truth of the matter.
Any attempt to found a party of special interests on the basis of an equal apportionment of privileges among the majority of the population would be utterly senseless. A privilege accruing to the majority ceases to be such. In a predominantly agricultural country, which exports farm products, an agrarian party working for special favors for farmers would be, in the long run, impossible. What should it demand? Protective tariffs could not benefit these farmers, who must export; and subsidies could not be paid to the majority of producers, because the minority could not provide them. The minority, on the other hand, which demands privileges for itself must induce the illusion that great masses stand behind it. When the agrarian parties in the industrial countries present their demands, they include in what they call the “farm population” landless workers, cottagers, and owners of small plots of land, who have no interest in a protective tariff on agricultural products. When the labor parties make some demand on behalf of a group of workers, they always talk of the great mass of the working people and gloss over the fact that the interests of trade-unionists employed in different branches of production are not identical, but, on the contrary, actually antagonistic, and that even within individual industries and concerns there are sharp conflicts of interest.
This is one of the two fundamental weaknesses of all parties aiming at privileges on behalf of special interests. On the one hand, they are obliged to rely on only a small group, because privileges cease to be privileges when they are granted to the majority; but, on the other hand, it is only in their guise as the champions and representatives of the majority that they have any prospect of realizing their demands. The fact that many parties in different countries have sometimes succeeded in overcoming this difficulty in carrying on their propaganda and have managed to imbue each social stratum or group with the conviction that its members may expect special advantages from the triumph of the party speaks only for the diplomatic and tactical skill of the leadership and for the want of judgment and the political immaturity of the voting masses. It by no means proves that a real solution of the problem is, in fact, possible. Of course, one can simultaneously promise city-dwellers cheaper bread and farmers higher prices for grain, but one cannot keep both promises at the same time. It is easy enough to promise one group that one will support an increase in certain government expenditures without a corresponding reduction in other government expenditures, and at the same time hold out to another group the prospect of lower taxes; but one cannot keep both these promises at the same time either. The technique of these parties is based on the division of society into producers and consumers. They are also wont to make use of the usual hypostasis of the state in questions of fiscal policy that enables them to advocate new expenditures to be paid out of the public treasury without any particular concern on their part over how such expenses are to be defrayed, and at the same time to complain about the heavy burden of taxes.
The other basic defect of these parties is that the demands they raise for each particular group are limitless. There is, in their eyes, only one limit to the quantity to be demanded: the resistance put up by the other side. This is entirely in keeping with their character as parties striving for privileges on behalf of special interests. Yet parties that follow no definite program, but come into conflict in the pursuit of unlimited desires for privileges on behalf of some and for legal disabilities for others, must bring about the destruction of every political system. People have been coming to recognize this ever more clearly and have begun to speak of a crisis of the modern state and of a crisis of the parliamentary system. In reality, what is involved is a crisis of the ideologies of the modern parties of special interests.
The Crisis of Parliamentarism and the Idea of a Diet Representing Special Groups
Parliamentarism, as it has slowly developed in England and in some of her colonies since the seventeenth century, and on the European continent since the overthrow of Napoleon and the July and February Revolutions, presupposes the general acceptance of the ideology of liberalism. All who enter a parliament charged with the responsibility of there deciding how the country shall be governed must be imbued with the conviction that the rightly understood interests of all parts and members of society coincide and that every kind of special privilege for particular groups and classes of the population is detrimental to the common good and must be eliminated. The different parties in a parliament empowered to perform the functions assigned to it by all the constitutions of recent times may, of course, take different sides in regard to particular political questions, but they must consider themselves as the representatives of the whole nation, not as representatives of particular districts or social strata. Above all their differences of opinion there must prevail the conviction that, in the last analysis, they are united by a common purpose and an identical aim and that only the means to the attainment of the goal toward which they all aspire are in dispute. The parties are not separated by an unbridgeable gulf nor by conflicts of interests that they are prepared to carry on to the bitter end even if this means that the whole nation must suffer and the country be brought to ruin. What divides the parties is the position they take in regard to concrete problems of policy. There are, therefore, only two parties: the party in power and the one that wants to be in power. Even the opposition does not seek to obtain power in order to promote certain interests or to fill official posts with its party members, but in order to translate its ideas into legislation and to put them into effect in the administration of the country.
Only under these conditions are parliaments or parliamentary governments practicable. For a time they were realized in the Anglo-Saxon countries, and some traces of them can still be found there today. On the European continent, even during the period usually characterized as the golden age of liberalism, one could really speak only of a certain approximation to these conditions. For decades now, conditions in the popular assemblies of Europe have been something like their direct opposite. There are a great number of parties, and each particular party is itself divided into various subgroups, which generally present a united front to the outside world, but usually oppose one another within the party councils as vehemently as they oppose the other parties publicly. Each particular party and faction feels itself appointed to be the sole champion of certain special interests, which it undertakes to lead to victory at any cost. To allot as much as possible from the public coffers to “our own,” to favor them by protective tariffs, immigration barriers, “social legislation,” and privileges of all kinds, at the expense of the rest of society, is the whole sum and substance of their policy.
As their demands are, in principle, limitless, it is impossible for any one of these parties ever to achieve all the ends it envisages. It is unthinkable that what the agrarian or labor parties strive for could ever be entirely realized. Every party seeks, nevertheless, to attain to such influence as will permit it to satisfy its desires as far as possible, while also taking care always to be able to justify to its electors why all their wishes could not be fulfilled. This can be done either by seeking to give in public the appearance of being in the opposition, although the party is actually in power, or by striving to shift the blame to some force not answerable to its influence: the sovereign, in the monarchical state; or, under certain circumstances, foreign powers or the like. The Bolsheviks cannot make Russia happy nor the socialists Austria because “western capitalism” prevents it. For at least fifty years antiliberal parties have ruled in Germany and Austria, yet we still read in their manifestoes and public statements, even in those of their “scientific” champions, that all existing evils are to be blamed on the dominance of “liberal” principles.
A parliament composed of the supporters of the antiliberal parties of special interests is not capable of carrying on its business and must, in the long run, disappoint everyone. This is what people mean today and have meant for many years now when they speak of the crisis of parliamentarism.
As the solution for this crisis, some demand the abolition of democracy and the parliamentary system and the institution of a dictatorship. We do not propose to discuss once again the objections to dictatorship. This we have already done in sufficient detail.
A second suggestion is directed toward remedying the alleged deficiencies of a general assembly composed of members elected directly by all the citizens, by either supplementing or replacing it altogether with a diet composed of delegates chosen by autonomous corporative bodies or guilds formed by the different branches of trade, industry, and the professions. The members of a general popular assembly, it is said, lack the requisite objectivity and the knowledge of economic affairs. What is needed is not so much a general policy as an economic policy. The representatives of industrial and professional guilds would be able to come to an agreement on questions whose solution either eludes entirely the delegates of constituencies formed on a merely geographical basis or becomes apparent to them only after long delay.
In regard to an assembly composed of delegates representing different occupational associations, the crucial question about which one must be clear is how a vote is to be taken, or, if each member is to have one vote, how many representatives are to be granted to each guild. This is a problem that must be resolved before the diet convenes; but once this question is settled, one can spare oneself the trouble of calling the assembly into session, for the outcome of the voting is thereby already determined. To be sure, it is quite another question whether the distribution of power among the guilds, once established, can be maintained. It will always be—let us not cherish any delusions on this score—unacceptable to the majority of the people. In order to create a parliament acceptable to the majority, there is no need of an assembly divided along occupational lines. Everything will depend on whether the discontent aroused by the policies adopted by the deputies of the guilds is great enough to lead to the violent overthrow of the whole system. In contrast to the democratic system, this one offers no guarantee that a change in policy desired by the overwhelming majority of the population will take place. In saying this, we have said everything that needs to be said against the idea of an assembly constituted on the basis of occupational divisions. For the liberal, any system which does not exclude every violent interruption of peaceful development is, from the very outset, out of the question.
Many supporters of the idea of a diet composed of guild representatives think that conflicts should be settled, not by the submission of one faction to another, but by the mutual adjustment of differences. But what is supposed to happen if the parties cannot succeed in reaching agreement? Compromises come about only when the threatening spectre of an unfavorable issue induces each party to the dispute to make some concession. No one prevents the different parties from coming to an agreement even in a parliament composed of delegates elected directly by the whole nation. No one will be able to compel agreement in a diet consisting of deputies chosen by the members of occupational associations.
Thus, an assembly so constituted cannot function like a parliament that serves as the organ of a democratic system. It cannot be the place where differences of political opinion are peacefully adjusted. It is not in a position to prevent the violent interruption of the peaceful progress of society by insurrection, revolution, and civil war. For the crucial decisions that determine the distribution of political power in the state are not made within its chambers or during the elections that decide its composition. The decisive factor in determining the distribution of power is the relative weight assigned by the constitution to the different corporate associations in the shaping of public policy. But this is a matter that is decided outside the chambers of the diet and without any organic relationship to the elections by which its members are chosen.
It is therefore quite correct to withhold the name “parliament” from an assembly consisting of representatives of corporate associations organized along occupational lines. Political terminology has been accustomed, in the last two centuries, to make a sharp distinction between a parliament and such an assembly. If one does not wish to confound all the concepts of political science, one does well to adhere to this distinction.
Sidney and Beatrice Webb, as well as a number of syndicalists and guild socialists, following in this respect recommendations already made in earlier days by many continental advocates of a reform in the upper chamber, have proposed letting two chambers exist side by side, one elected directly by the whole nation, and the other composed of deputies elected from constituencies divided along occupational lines. However, it is obvious that this suggestion in no way remedies the defects of the system of guild representation. In practice, the bicameral system can function only if one house has the upper hand and has the unconditional power to impose its will on the other, or if, when the two chambers take different positions on an issue, an attempt at a compromise solution must be made. In the absence of such an attempt, however, the conflict remains to be settled outside the chambers of parliament, in the last resort by force alone. Twist and turn the problem as one will, one always returns in the end to the same insurmountable difficulties. Such are the stumbling blocks on which all proposals of this and a similar kind must come to grief, whether they are called corporativism, guild socialism, or anything else. The impracticability of these schemes is admitted when people finally content themselves by recommending a completely inconsequential innovation: the establishment of an economic council empowered to serve solely in an advisory capacity.
The champions of the idea of an assembly composed of guild deputies labor under a serious delusion if they think that the antagonisms that today rend the fabric of national unity can be overcome by dividing the population and the popular assembly along occupational lines. One cannot get rid of these antagonisms by tinkering with technicalities in the constitution. They can be overcome only by the liberal ideology.
Liberalism and the Parties of Special Interests
The parties of special interests, which see nothing more in politics than the securing of privileges and prerogatives for their own groups, not only make the parliamentary system impossible; they rupture the unity of the state and of society. They lead not merely to the crisis of parliamentarism, but to a general political and social crisis. Society cannot, in the long run, exist if it is divided into sharply defined groups, each intent on wresting special privileges for its own members, continually on the alert to see that it does not suffer any setback, and prepared, at any moment, to sacrifice the most important political institutions for the sake of winning some petty advantage.
To the parties of special interests, all political questions appear exclusively as problems of political tactics. Their ultimate goal is fixed for them from the start. Their aim is to obtain, at the cost of the rest of the population, the greatest possible advantages and privileges for the groups they represent. The party platform is intended to disguise this objective and give it a certain appearance of justification, but under no circumstances to announce it publicly as the goal of party policy. The members of the party, in any case, know what their goal is; they do not need to have it explained to them. How much of it ought to be imparted to the world is, however, a purely tactical question.
All antiliberal parties want nothing but to secure special favors for their own members, in complete disregard of the resulting disintegration of the whole structure of society. They cannot withstand for a moment the criticism that liberalism makes of their aims. They cannot deny, when their demands are subjected to the test of logical scrutiny, that their activity, in the last analysis, has antisocial and destructive effects and that even on the most cursory examination it must prove impossible for any social order to arise from the operations of parties of special interests continually working against one another. To be sure, the obviousness of these facts has not been able to damage the parties of special interests in the eyes of those who lack the capacity to look beyond the immediate present. The great mass of people do not inquire what will happen the day after tomorrow or later on. They think of today and, at most, of the next day. They do not ask what must follow if all other groups too, in the pursuit of their special interests, were to display the same unconcern for the general welfare. They hope to succeed not only in realizing their own demands, but also in beating down those of others. For the few who apply higher standards to the activities of political parties, who demand that even in political action Kant’s categorical imperative be followed (“Act only on that principle which you can will—at the same time—to be a universal law, i.e., so that no contradiction results from the attempt to conceive of your action as a law to be universally complied with”), the ideology of the parties of special interests certainly has nothing to offer.
Socialism has gained a considerable advantage from this logical deficiency in the position adopted by the parties of special interests. For many who are unable to grasp the great ideal of liberalism, but who think too clearly to be content with demands for privileged treatment on behalf of particular groups, the principle of socialism took on a special significance. The idea of a socialist society—to which one cannot, in spite of its necessarily inherent defects, which we have already discussed in detail, deny a certain grandeur of conception—served to conceal and, at the same time, to vindicate the weakness of the position taken by the parties of special interests. It had the effect of diverting the attention of the critic from the activities of the party to a great problem, which, whatever one may think of it, was at all events deserving of serious and exhaustive consideration.
In the last hundred years, the socialist ideal, in one form or another, has found adherents among many sincere and honest people. A number of the best and noblest men and women have accepted it with enthusiasm. It has been the guiding star of distinguished statesmen. It has achieved a dominant position at the universities and has served as a source of inspiration to youth. It has so filled the thoughts and fed the emotions of both the past and the present generation that history will some day quite justly characterize our era as the age of socialism. In the last decades, in all countries people have done as much as they could to make the socialist ideal a reality by nationalizing and municipalizing enterprises and by adopting measures designed to lead to a planned economy. The defects necessarily involved in socialist management—its unfavorable effects on the productivity of human labor and the impossibility of economic calculation under socialism—everywhere brought these endeavors to the point where virtually every step further in the direction of socialism threatened too flagrant an impairment of the supply of goods available to the public. From sheer necessity one had to pause on the road to socialism; and the socialist ideal—even while preserving its ideological ascendancy—became, in practical politics, merely a cloak for the labor parties in their scramble for privileges.
This could be shown to be true of each of the many socialist parties, such as, for instance, the various factions among the Christian socialists. We propose, however, to confine our discussion to the case of the Marxian socialists, who undoubtedly were and are the most important socialist party.
Marx and his followers were really serious about socialism. Marx rejected all those measures on behalf of particular groups and strata of society that are demanded by the parties of special interests. He did not dispute the validity of the liberal argument that the outcome of such acts of interference can only be a general reduction in the productivity of labor. When he thought, wrote, and spoke consistently, he always took the position that every attempt to tamper with the mechanism of the capitalist system by acts of intervention on the part of the government or of other social organs armed with the same coercive power is pointless because it does not bring about the result intended by its advocates, but instead reduces the productivity of the economy. Marx wanted to organize the workers for the conflict that would lead to the establishment of socialism, but not for the achievement of certain special privileges within a society still based on private ownership of the means of production. He wanted a socialist labor party, but not, as he put it, a “petty-bourgeois” party aiming at individual, piecemeal reforms.
Prevented by blind adherence to the preconceptions of his scholastic system from taking an unbiased view of things as they are, he thought that the workers, whom the writers under his intellectual influence had organized into “socialist” parties, would be content to stand by quietly watching the evolution of the capitalist system according to doctrine, so as not to postpone the day when it would be fully ripe for the expropriation of the expropriators and would “turn into” socialism. He did not see that the labor parties, just like the other parties of special interests that were simultaneously springing up everywhere, while acknowledging the socialist program as correct in principle, in practical politics were concerned only with the immediate goal of winning special privileges for the workers. The Marxist theory of the solidarity of the interests of all workers, which Marx had developed with quite other political ends in view, rendered excellent service in skillfully concealing the fact that the costs of the victories won by some groups of workers had to be borne by other groups of workers; that is to say, that in the field of allegedly “prolabor” legislation, as well as in trade-union struggles, the interests of the proletarians by no means coincide. In this respect, the Marxist doctrine performed the same service for the party championing the special interests of the workers as was accomplished for the German Centrist and other clerical parties by the appeal to religion; for the nationalist parties, by the appeal to national solidarity; for the agrarian parties, by the contention that the interests of the various groups of agricultural producers are identical; and for the protectionist parties, by the doctrine of the necessity of a comprehensive tariff for the protection of national labor. The more the social-democratic parties grew, the stronger became the influence of the trade unions within them and the more they became an association of trade unions that saw everything from the point of view of the closed shop and the increase of wages.
Liberalism does not have the least thing in common with any of these parties. It stands at the very opposite pole from all of them. It promises special favors to no one. It demands from everyone sacrifices on behalf of the preservation of society. These sacrifices—or, more accurately, the renunciation of immediately attainable advantages—are, to be sure, merely provisional; they quickly pay for themselves in greater and more lasting gains. Nevertheless, for the time being, they are sacrifices. Because of this, liberalism finds itself, from the very outset, in a peculiar position in the competition among parties. The antiliberal candidate promises special privileges to every particular group of voters: higher prices to the producers and lower prices to the consumers; higher salaries to public officeholders and lower taxes to taxpayers. He is prepared to agree to any desired expenditure at the cost of the public treasury or of the rich. No group is too small for him to disdain to seek its favor by a gift from the pocket of the “general public.” The liberal candidate can only say to all voters that the pursuit of such special favors is antisocial.
Party Propaganda and Party Organization
When liberal ideas began to spread to central and eastern Europe from their homeland in western Europe, the traditional powers—the monarchy, the nobility, and the clergy—trusting in the instruments of repression that were at their disposal, felt completely safe. They did not consider it necessary to combat liberalism and the mentality of the Enlightenment with intellectual weapons. Suppression, persecution, and imprisonment of the malcontents seemed to them to be more serviceable. They boasted of the violent and coercive machinery of the army and the police. Too late they realized with horror that the new ideology snatched these weapons from their hands by conquering the minds of officials and soldiers. It took the defeat suffered by the old regime in the battle against liberalism to teach its adherents the truth that there is nothing in the world more powerful than ideologies and ideologists and that only with ideas can one fight against ideas. They realized that it is foolish to rely on arms, since one can deploy armed men only if they are prepared to obey, and that the basis of all power and dominion is, in the last analysis, ideological.
The acknowledgment of this sociological truth was one of the fundamental convictions on which the political theory of liberalism was based. From it liberalism had drawn no other conclusion than that, in the long run, truth and righteousness must triumph because their victory in the realm of ideas cannot be doubted. And whatever is victorious in this realm must ultimately succeed in the world of affairs as well, since no persecution is capable of suppressing it. It is therefore superfluous to trouble oneself especially about the spread of liberalism. Its victory is, in any case, certain.
The opponents of liberalism can be understood even in this respect only if one keeps in mind that their actions are nothing but the reverse of what liberalism teaches; that is, they are based on the rejection of and reaction against liberal ideas. They were not in a position to offer a comprehensive and consistent body of social and economic doctrine in opposition to the liberal ideology, for liberalism is the only possible conclusion that can be validly drawn from such a doctrine. Yet a program that promised something to only one group or a few groups had no chance of winning general support and was doomed from the outset to political failure. Thus, these parties had no other recourse than to hit upon some arrangement that would bring the groups to whom they addressed themselves completely under their sway and to keep them that way. They had to take care that liberal ideas found no adherents among the classes on which they depended.
To this end, they created party organizations that hold the individual so tightly in their grip that he dare not even think of resigning. In Germany and Austria, where this system was developed with pedantic thoroughness, and in the countries of eastern Europe, where it was copied, the individual is today no longer primarily a citizen, but a party member. Already as a child he is taken care of by the party. Sports and social activities are organized on partisan lines. The farmers’ cooperative system, through whose intervention alone the farmer can lay claim to his share of the subsidies and grants accruing to agricultural producers; the institutions for the advancement of the professional classes; and the workingmen’s labor exchange and savings bank system are all managed along party lines. In all matters on which the authorities are free to use their discretion, the individual, in order to be respected, requires the support of his party. Under such circumstances, laxity in party affairs leads to suspicion, but resignation means serious economic detriment, if not ruination and social ostracism.
The parties of special interests reserve for the problem of the professional classes a treatment peculiar to it alone. The independent professions of the lawyer, the doctor, the writer, and the artist are not represented in sufficiently great number to permit them to figure as parties of special interests in their own right. They are therefore the least open to the influence of the ideology of special class privileges. Their members clung longest and most stubbornly to liberalism. They had nothing to gain from adopting a policy of ruthless and unyielding struggle for the promotion of their particular interests. This was a situation that the parties working on behalf of organized pressure groups viewed with the utmost misgiving. They could not tolerate the intelligentsia’s continued adherence to liberalism, for they feared that their own ranks might be thinned if liberal ideas, once again developed and expounded by a few individuals in these groups, were to gain enough strength to find acceptance and approval among the mass of their members. They had just learned how dangerous such ideologies could be to the prerogatives of the privileged orders of the caste and status society. The parties of special interests therefore proceeded systematically to organize themselves in such a way as to make the members of the “liberal” professions dependent on them. This was soon achieved by incorporating them into the mechanism of the party machinery. The doctor, the lawyer, the writer, the artist must enroll themselves in and subordinate themselves to the organization of their patients, clients, readers, and patrons. Whoever holds back or openly rebels is boycotted into compliance.
The subjugation of the independent professional classes finds its complement in the procedure followed in making appointments to teaching positions and to posts in the civil service. Where the party system is fully developed, only party members are appointed, whether of the one currently in power or of all the parties of special interests in accordance with an arrangement, tacit though it may be, arrived at among themselves. And ultimately even the independent press is brought under control by the threat of a boycott.
A crowning stroke in the organization of these parties was the establishment of their own bands of armed men. Organized in military fashion, after the pattern of the national army, they have drawn up their mobilization and operational plans, have weapons at their disposal, and are ready to strike. With their banners and brass bands they march through the streets heralding to the world the dawn of an era of endless agitation and warfare.
Two circumstances have so far served to mitigate the dangers of this situation. In the first place, a certain balance of power among the party forces has been reached in some of the more important countries. Where this is lacking, as in Russia and Italy, the power of the state, in disregard of the few remaining liberal principles that the rest of the world still acknowledges, is used to suppress and persecute the adherents of the opposition parties.
The second circumstance that, for the moment, still prevents the worst from happening is that even nations imbued with hostility toward liberalism and capitalism count on capital investment from the lands that have been the classical exemplars of the liberal and capitalist mentality—above all, the United States. Without these credits, the consequences of the policy of capital consumption that they have been pursuing would have already become much more obvious. Anticapitalism can maintain itself in existence only by sponging on capitalism. It must therefore take into consideration to a certain extent the public opinion of the West, where liberalism is still acknowledged today, even though in a much diluted form. In the fact that capitalists generally desire to lend only to such borrowers as hold out some prospect of repaying the loan, the destructionist parties profess to see that “world ascendancy of capital” about which they raise such a hue and cry.
Liberalism as the “Party of Capital”
Thus, it is easily seen that liberalism cannot be put into the same class with the parties of special interests without denying its very nature. It is something radically different from them all. They are out for battle and extol violence; liberalism, on the contrary, desires peace and the ascendancy of ideas. It is for this reason that all parties, however badly disunited they may otherwise be, form a united front against liberalism.
The enemies of liberalism have branded it as the party of the special interests of the capitalists. This is characteristic of their mentality. They simply cannot understand a political ideology as anything but the advocacy of certain special privileges opposed to the general welfare.
One cannot look on liberalism as a party of special interests, privileges, and prerogatives, because private ownership of the means of production is not a privilege redounding to the exclusive advantage of the capitalists, but an institution in the interest of the whole of society and consequently an institution that benefits everyone. This is the opinion not only of the liberals, but even, up to a certain point, of their opponents. When the Marxists champion the view that socialism cannot be made a reality until the world is “ripe” for it, because a social system never becomes extinct before “all the productive forces have developed for which it is broad enough,” they concede, at least for the present, the social indispensability of the institution of private property. Even the Bolsheviks, who only a little while ago propagated with fire, sword, and the gallows their interpretation of Marxism—that is, that “ripeness” had already been achieved—now have to admit that it is still too early. If, however, even if it is only for the moment, conditions are such that capitalism and its juridical “superstructure,” private property, cannot be dispensed with, can one say of an ideology that considers private property the foundation of society that it serves only to promote the selfish interests of the owners of capital against the interests of everyone else?
To be sure, if the antiliberal ideologies treat private property as indispensable, whether just for the present or forever, they believe, nevertheless, that it must be regulated and restricted by authoritarian decrees and similar acts of intervention on the part of the state. They recommend, not liberalism and capitalism, but interventionism. But economics has demonstrated that the system of interventionism is contrary to purpose and self-defeating. It cannot attain the ends that its advocates intend it to attain. Consequently, it is an error to suppose that besides socialism (communal property) and capitalism (private property) still a third system of organizing social cooperation is thinkable and workable, namely, interventionism. Attempts to put interventionism into effect must, of necessity, lead to conditions that run counter to the intentions of their authors, who are then faced with the alternative either of abstaining from all acts of intervention, and thereby leaving private property on its own, or of replacing private property by socialism.
This too is a thesis that liberal economists are not alone in maintaining. (Of course, the popular idea that economists are divided along party lines is altogether mistaken.) Marx too, in all his theoretical discussions, saw only the alternatives of socialism or capitalism and had nothing but derision and contempt for those reformers who, imprisoned in “petty-bourgeois thinking,” reject socialism and, at the same time, still want to remodel capitalism. Economics has never even attempted to show that a system of private property regulated and restricted by government intervention would be practicable. When the “socialists of the chair” wanted to prove this at any cost, they began by denying the possibility of scientific knowledge in the economic field and ultimately ended by declaring that whatever the state does must surely be rational. Since science demonstrated the absurdity of the policy that they wished to recommend, they sought to invalidate logic and science.
The same is true of the proof of the possibility and practicability of socialism. The pre-Marxist writers had labored in vain to provide it. They could not do so, nor were they able in any way to attack the validity of the weighty objections to the practicability of their utopia that their critics based on the findings of science. Around the middle of the nineteenth century the socialist idea seemed already to have been effectively disposed of. Then Marx made his appearance. He did not, to be sure, adduce the proof—which, indeed, cannot be adduced—that socialism is realizable, but he simply declared—of course, without being able to demonstrate it—that the coming of socialism is inevitable. From this arbitrary assumption and from the axiom, which seemed to him self-evident, that everything occurring later in human history represents an advance over what came earlier, Marx drew the conclusion that socialism is therefore more perfect than capitalism and so there could naturally be no doubt as to its practicability. Consequently, it is altogether unscientific to concern oneself with the question of the possibility of a socialist society or even to study the problems of such a social order at all. Whoever wanted to try it was ostracized by the socialists and excommunicated by public opinion, which they controlled. Heedless of all these—to be sure, only external—difficulties, economics occupied itself with the theoretical construction of a socialist system and demonstrated irrefutably that every type of socialism is unworkable because economic calculation is impossible in a socialist community. The advocates of socialism have scarcely ventured to make any reply to this, and what they have advanced in rebuttal has been altogether trivial and devoid of significance.
What was proved by science theoretically was corroborated in practice by the failure of all socialist and interventionist experiments.
Hence, it is nothing but specious propaganda designed to rely for its effectiveness on the lack of judgment of the thoughtless to assert, as people do, that the defense of capitalism is purely an affair of the capitalists and the entrepreneurs, whose special interests, as opposed to those of other groups, are furthered by the capitalist system. The “have’s” do not have any more reason to support the institution of private ownership of the means of production than do the “have-not’s.” If their immediate special interests come into question, they are scarcely liberal. The notion that, if only capitalism is preserved, the propertied classes could remain forever in possession of their wealth stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of the capitalist economy, in which property is continually being shifted from the less efficient to the more efficient businessman. In a capitalist society one can hold on to one’s fortune only if one perpetually acquires it anew by investing it wisely. The rich, who are already in possession of wealth, have no special reason to desire the preservation of a system of unhampered competition open to all; particularly if they did not themselves earn their fortune, but inherited it, they have more to fear than to hope from competition. They do have a special interest in interventionism, which always has a tendency to preserve the existing division of wealth among those in possession of it. But they cannot hope for any special treatment from liberalism, a system in which no heed is paid to the time-honored claims of tradition advanced by the vested interests of established wealth.
The entrepreneur can prosper only if he provides what the consumers demand. When the world is afire with the lust for war, the liberal seeks to expound the advantages of peace; the entrepreneur, however, produces artillery and machine-guns. If public opinion today favors capital investment in Russia, the liberal may endeavor to explain that it is as intelligent to invest capital in a land whose government openly proclaims as the ultimate goal of its policy the expropriation of all capital as it would be to dump goods into the sea; but the entrepreneur does not hesitate to furnish supplies to Russia if only he is in a position to shift the risk to others, whether it be to the state or to some less clever capitalists, who allow themselves to be misled by public opinion, itself manipulated by Russian money. The liberal struggles against the trend toward commercial autarky; the German manufacturer, however, builds a factory in the eastern province, which excludes German goods, in order to serve this market while under the protection of the tariff. Clear-thinking entrepreneurs and capitalists may view the consequences of an antiliberal policy as ruinous for the whole of society; but in their capacity as entrepreneurs and capitalists they must seek, not to oppose it, but to adjust themselves to the given conditions.
There is no class that could champion liberalism for its own selfish interests to the detriment of the whole of society and the other strata of the population, simply because liberalism serves no special interest. Liberalism cannot count on the help that the antiliberal parties receive from the fact that everyone who seeks to win some privilege for himself at the expense of the rest of society attaches himself to them. When the liberal comes before the electorate as a candidate for public office and is asked by those whose votes he solicits what he or his party intends to do for them and their group, the only answer he can give is: Liberalism serves everyone, but it serves no special interest.
To be a liberal is to have realized that a special privilege conceded to a small group to the disadvantage of others cannot, in the long run, be preserved without a fight (civil war), but that, on the other hand, one cannot bestow privileges on the majority, since these then cancel one another out in their value for those whom they are supposed to specially favor, and the only net result is a reduction in the productivity of social labor.