- En Torno a La Funcion Del Capital, Joaquín Reig
- Reflections On the Keynesian Episode, W. H. Hutt
- Ludwig Von Mises and the Market Process, L. M. Lachmann
- Values, Prices and Statistics, Bettina Bien
- The Tax System and a Free Society, Oswald Brownlee
- How “should” Common-access Facilities Be Financed?, James M. Buchanan
- Pitfalls In Planning: Veterans' Housing After World War Ii, Marshall R. Colberg
- Presents For the Poor, R. L. Cunningham
- Restrictions On International Trade: Why Do They Persist? W. Marshall Curtiss
- “human Action”, E. W. Dykes
- The Genius of Mises' Insights, Lawrence Fertig
- On Behalf of Profits, Percy L. Greaves, Jr.
- Tax Reform: Two Ways to Progress, C. Lowell Harriss
- The Future of Capitalism, Henry Hazlitt
- Prices and Property Rights In the Command Economy, Arthur Kemp
- The Inevitable Bankruptcy of the Socialist State, Howard E. Kershner
- Entrepreneurship and the Market Approach to Development, Israel M. Kirzner
- The New Science of Freedom, George Koether
- Financing, Correcting, and Adjustment: Three Ways to Deal With an Imbalance of Payments, Fritz Machlup
- On Protecting One's Self From One's Friends, Don Paarlberg
- Recollections Re a Kindred Spirit, William A. Paton
- Ludwig Von Mises, William H. Peterson
- The Economic-power Syndrome, Sylvester Petro
- Ownership As a Social Function, Paul L. Poirot
- To Abdicate Or Not, Leonard E. Read
- The Book In the Market Place, Henry Regnery
- Lange, Mises and Praxeology: the Retreat From Marxism, Murray N. Rothbard
- The Production and Exchange of Used Body Parts, Simon Rottenberg
- The Education of Lord Acton, Robert L. Schuettinger
- Chicago Monetary Tradition In the Light of Austrian Theory, Hans F. Sennholz
- Hubris and Environmental Variance, Joseph J. Spengler
- An Application of Economics In Biology, Gordon Tullock
- What Mises Did For Me, John V. Van Sickle
- Economics In a Changing World, G. C. Wiegand
- Can a Liberal Be an Equalitarian? Leland B. Yeager
- The Political Economy of Nostalgia, Ramon Diaz
The New Science of Freedom
“While other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.” Thus wrote John Adams to Thomas Jefferson in 1813.
“What is the reason?” Adams asked, and then proceeded to answer his own question:
“I say parties and factions will not suffer, or permit improvements to be made. As soon as one man hints at an improvement, his rival opposes it. No sooner has one party discovered or invented an amelioration of the condition of man, or the order of society, than the opposite party belies it, misconstrues, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it. Records are destroyed. Histories are annihilated, or interpolated, or prohibited—sometimes by popes, sometimes by emporers, sometimes by aristocratical and sometimes by democratical assemblies and sometimes by mobs.”
Were Adams living today he would be even more dismayed. He would see the progress of most sciences accelerated to an awesome degree, while the “science” of government is worse than “at a stand”—it is in the hands of a spendthrift democratical assembly and a growing mob in the streets. In fact, there is no “science” of government, for government is Force not Knowledge.
There may be a science of politics—a political science—which seeks to establish the principles on which a stable polis can be founded. Government, however, is politics in action—polis in praxis. And government can never become a science, in my belief, until it embraces the praxeological principle which Ludwig von Mises has shown to be necessary to social order.
That principle is simply free choice—maximized for the individual and minimized for the government. As Mises states it:
“Freedom is that state of affairs in which the individual's discretion to choose is not constrained by governmental violence beyond the margin within which praxeological law restricts it anyway.”
If this is the true definition of freedom—and I believe it is—then freedom has a scientific basis. No longer does its definition depend upon the value judgments of philosophers, theologians, historians, political scientists or politicians.
Freedom, thanks to Ludwig von Mises, and the other economists upon whose efforts he founded his own great work, now rests upon the certitude of praxeological science. It does not depend upon the contradictory claims of parties or factions.
And if freedom can be thus scientifically defined, then on this foundation it may be possible to build a new Science of Freedom. As praxeology lifted economics out of the limited confines of “economizing scarce means” and broadened it to a general theory of choice embracing all human action, so can praxeology, with the aid of economics, develop a Science of Freedom.
Do we need a Science of Freedom?
Certainly, the human condition cries out for one. The sciences are advancing, yet freedom is declining. We gain in knowledge as we lose our liberty.
It is as if we had been mining the world of Ignorance and digging deep into one vast vein of science after another, one shaft of knowledge penetrating, at one time, more deeply than others, only to be reached and passed by other shafts as they dig deeper seeking Truth.
But each shaft is only partial Truth. And all the while, during this digging, there has been no great supporting structure of Understanding to relate one science to another—to serve as a crossbrace and prevent a cave-in. Meanwhile, the accumulated ores of wisdom are brought to the surface and piled higher and higher—until their weight overwhelms the weakened pillars of knowledge as each shaft goes deeper. Suddenly the whole structure of Knowledge collapses and society comes crashing down into Ignorance and ruin.
Our dilemma results from the failure of philosophy, science and history to find the “unifying principle” for which men have been searching for centuries. For, as Merz says in his History of European Thought, we have not met “the necessity of arriving at some firm and consistent view of the world and life—what we term a reasoned creed.”
Early ethical, political and religious philosophy had been trying to find that “reasoned creed”—by seeking to change man from what he was to what they thought he ought to be. History, by trying to derive immutable laws for man's development from a reading of past events, told man what he had to be. Religion tried to displace Reason in man's loyalty, or to explicate it by Revelation. And Reason, in its turn, failed to displace Religion.
Merz described the flagging efforts of thinkers to find “unity of thought” early in the 19th century:
“philosophical speculation was primarily occupied in seeking and establishing the right Principle of unification ... in the middle of the century it was more definitely occupied with the Method of unification, and towards the end of the period, when both the principle and the method of unification had become doubtful or uncertain, the need and Purpose of a unification of thought made itself more and more felt.”
In todays' crisis of Western Civilization the need is more than “felt.” Western man must find it quickly, if he is to save himself from annihilation.
The crisis of our times is the crisis of science. As Ernst Cassirer describes it:
“science not only multiplied incessantly the number of problems and interests; it compelled also a constantly increasing specialization in research. Therewith the sciences were more and more sharply differentiated but at the same time they became more and more strangers to each other.”
And what is even worse: “Everyone pretends to speak not only for his own department of knowledge but for the whole of science, which he believes himself to represent and embody in an exemplary fashion. Thus arise ever new discords and constantly sharper conflicts, and there is no tribunal that can compose these quarrels and assign each party to its respective rights.”
Certainly science needs no tribunal. For a tribunal is Force. Nor does science want “unity.” For unity implies conformity. What science needs is the cohesive power of a principle.
And the only principle acceptable to all of science is the principle of freedom. It is ironic that Science, which has always stridently proclaimed the necessity for freedom for itself, has done so little to search for a Science of Freedom.
Without the cohesive power of a generally accepted idea, science, like society, loses its cement. It begins to disintegrate.
As Hayek says, in The Constitution of Liberty, “we must show that liberty is not merely one particular value but that it is the source and condition of most moral values.” And he states as his aim “the interweaving of the philosophy, jurisprudence and economics of freedom which is still needed.”
But nowhere in his interweaving does the eminent author of The Constitution of Liberty, as far as I can recall, define freedom as a law instead of a value—a law of human action.
He does refer to Christian Bay's definition of freedom as “the soil required for the full growth of other values”. And he cites W. H. Auden's statement that “Liberty is not a value, but the ground of value.”
If freedom is the “ground” of all values, then, it seems to me, freedom can be called a General Principle—a Law. For freedom, certainly, is not a “value” in the same sense that summer is valued over winter, or blue is preferred over red, or release from drug addiction is preferred over slavery to a drug habit. Freedom—the instinct to resist physical restraint, the hatred of coercion, the drive to what one wills—these traits of human character are inborn. They are akin to the instinct for survival.
Of course people, whole nations, give up their freedom ignorantly. But how many people choose, knowingly, to give up their freedom? How many prefer slavery? To a human being—if he is to remain human in the true sense of the word—freedom is a necessity. One cannot have a scale of values unless one has the freedom to choose.
“Nature is inexorable necessity” says Mises, “in nature there is nothing that could be called freedom.” So, “man has to adjust his conduct to the world as it is.”
But man exists in nature, is a part of necessitous nature, and subject to the laws of his own nature. He is the only “animal” who possesses choice. It is part of his nature. In fact, the necessity to choose is the one thing over which he has no choice. For a man to cease choosing he would have to make his final choice. He would have to commit suicide. Or, he would have to be killed by others.
Mises comes closer, perhaps, to defining freedom as a Law than does Hayek. He says, in Human Action, “the scale of values or wants manifests itself only in the reality of action.” Could one assume that “reality of action” is, by definition, a Law?
And he also says “Liberty and freedom are the conditions of man within a contractual society.” Can we add that freedom is a “condition of man in any society in the sense that it is an end he desires and a means he must have if he is to attain his end? Or, to satisfy the logician who objects that a means cannot be an end, might we say that one must have freedom in the praxeological sense if one is to enjoy freedom in the metaphysical sense? The first being the means and the second the end.
Perhaps we can say, since choice is immutable in man's nature, and since choice implies freedom, that “freedom is a law of man's nature”—i.e. a law of human action.
We do not say that the Law of Freedom has anything to do with so-called “natural rights” or “natural law.” We do not say that the Law of Freedom dictates modes of conduct or that it has anything to do with arbitrary, abstract ideas of “absolute justice”—all of which Mises fulminates against in Human Action.
“Concepts are tools of reasoning” says Mises, “they must never be considered as regulative principles dictating modes of conduct.” True. But concepts themselves occur after freedom. They are made possible by freedom. To create a concept a man must think. When thinking he chooses. When choosing he exercises freedom. The concept of freedom as a Law of human action imposes no dictation upon anyone or any idea. It merely states, a priori, what is self-evident, but what is too seldom said or too little realized.
Mises says, “praxeology as a science cannot encroach upon the individual's right to choose and act.” In a Science of Freedom we might say: praxeology defines the individual's freedom to choose as given. This may seem like hair-splitting. But from the standpoint of a Science of Freedom the distinction could be important.
The difference between a “right” and a Law—and the ability and willingness of leading thinkers in all sciences to accept that fact—could, quite possibly, open the way to that “integration” of thought so desperately needed to bolster the ideological defenses of Western civilization.
At least (and perhaps most important) it might lead to the necessary study of economics by thinkers in the social and natural sciences. It might, conceivably, awake them to the fact that—since there is a Science of Freedom, and since they wish to defend freedom in their own disciplines,—they must, then, master at least the essentials of the Science of Freedom and the science of economics on which it rests.
I doubt that we can expect them to make that effort until they have become convinced that Freedom is a Law based upon science, and not on a metaphysical mirage blown here and then there by the winds of opinion.
If they do make that effort, they will be confronted, immediately, with the question: whose economics will they study—Mises or Marx, Hayek or Keynes, Hazlitt or Friedman, Rothbard or Samuelson?
Hopefully, they will find time to study all of them and more. They will study the great ideas in economics as they would study them in their own disciplines. And if their minds are truly scientific—and not scientitic as Hayek defined the word in his important Counter-Revolution of Science—we need have no fear of the conclusions they will reach.
And in the science of economics, they will be guided by the test of the free market.
Should there be a Federal Reserve System? Obviously not; there should be free banking. Should money be paper and its supply regulated by the State? Certainly not; money should be specie and its quantity “regulated” by the market. Should there be price and wage and exchange controls? Of course not; there should be a free market. Should there be subsidies and quotas and tariffs? Obviously not; there should be free trade—and so on.
We may hope that their study of economics will give them the same humility in their outlook toward the complexities of human action that they seem to possess in their outlook upon the firmament they are studying, or the history and philosophy they are pursuing.
Certainly we have reason to hope that the great natural scientists and philosophers will arm themselves to avoid such embarrassing errors as this:
“The modern salesmanship associated with mass production is producing a more deep-seated reason for the insecurity of trade.”
(Alfred North Whitehead)
Also, we may hope, that scientists who have not studied human action will gain the insight of Lecomte du Nouy; “We have overlooked, behind the codified and conquered material forces, the directing forces that alone characterize man.... We did not wait to understand the nature of electricity before building dynamos and factories. Had we done so, we would have no electric force, light, or telegraph today. It is no longer a question of increasing our comfort but of saving the house built with so much labor—that house whose very foundations are tottering. To accomplish this, there is only one method: it is to consider man, in his complexity, as a single problem and to cease separating instruction from moral education.”
As for the Science of Freedom, we may hope that social philosophers from all disciplines may contribute to it. Although its main content will be economic its main contributors need not be economists.
It is impossible to foresee the content of the Science of Freedom in anything but the dimmest outline. Economics will pervade it because economics pervades all of life. But highly important contributions will come from masters of other sciences who know economics.
One thinks of Prof. Sylvester Petro whose Labor Policy for a Free Society stands as a keystone in the science of freedom related particularly to the fields of labor and law.
Another example of the “interweaving” of scientific expertise in more than one discipline is the work of Martin Anderson in his Federal Bulldozer, a remarkably effective application of economic understanding to a problem in social philosophy, economic policy and economic history.
And, from the standpoint of pure theory applied to the Science of Freedom, we have the brilliant contribution of Prof. Murray Rothbard, Power and Market.
One can say, with Sylvester Petro, that “if we are to understand the proper excellence of the free society, careful analysis of the unity and harmony of the concepts of freedom ... is indispensable.”
And fortunately, one can say, with Eric Vogelin, “that at least the foundations for a new science have been laid.”
The new Science of Freedom will, it is hoped, achieve the “interweaving” which Hayek started. It will “open the doors for future development rather than bar others,” as he promised. It will remove the materialistic stigma from the word “economics” and reveal the economist as the most humane of all scientists.
And it will offer to every brilliant mind that does not know economics the great opportunity to make the scientific world whole, by interweaving the knowledge of all other sciences with the indispensable science of economics—to the extent that epistemology permits, and that may be a far greater expanse than we can now envision.
Hayek has pointed the way:
“the answers to many of the pressing social questions of our time are to be found ultimately in the recognition of principles that lie outside the scope of technical economics or of any other single discipline.”
Whether the Law of Freedom—as formulated here upon the foundation of the Mises definition of freedom—is a valid concept or not is, at the moment, unimportant. It is only one more humble attempt—of many which must be made—to build that “harmony” of science which will provide the “unity of thought” required to face the destructive, monolithic ideology now challenging Western civilization.
At least we can start with a simple proposition that may merit general assent:
To use the powers of nature for his own purpose, man must act in accordance with nature's physical laws—“man commands nature only by obeying her.”
Likewise, says the New Science of Freedom, man can use the powers of his own mind to his own benefit only by obeying the praxeological law of his own nature—i.e. the Law of Freedom.
If we can show that praxeology (including economics) is the only scientific explication of freedom, let us hope that, from now on, any man who claims to speak for Science will have mastered the essentials of economics and the essentials of the Science of Freedom.
And let us hope that Eric Vogelin's prophecy of twenty years ago will someday come to pass:
“The reconstruction of a science of man and society is one of the remarkable events of the last half-century and, in retrospect from a future vantage point will, perhaps, appear as the most important event in our time.”
If Science succeeds in such a reconstruction, the eminent role of Ludwig von Mises in that reconstruction will—perhaps even more than his towering contributions to the advancement of economic theory—place him on the pinnacle of fame with the very few of the greatest social philosophers in history.