Front Page Titles (by Subject) 7.: Total War - Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War
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7.: Total War - Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War 
Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, edited with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Indiana, 2011).
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The princes of the ancien régime were eager for aggrandizement. They seized every opportunity to wage war and to conquer. They organized—comparatively small—armies. These armies fought their battles. The citizens detested the wars, which brought mischief to them and burdened them with taxes. But they were not interested in the outcome of the campaigns. It was more or less immaterial to them whether they were ruled by a Habsburg or by a Bourbon. In those days Voltaire declared: “The peoples are indifferent to their rulers’ wars.”*
Modern war is not a war of royal armies. It is a war of the peoples, a total war. It is a war of states which do not leave to their subjects any private sphere; they consider the whole population a part of the armed forces. Whoever does not fight must work for the support and equipment of the army. Army and people are one and the same. The citizens passionately participate in the war. For it is their state, their God, who fights.
Wars of aggression are popular nowadays with those nations which are convinced that only victory and conquest could improve their material well-being. On the other hand the citizens of the nations assaulted know very well that they must fight for their own survival. Thus every individual in both camps has a burning interest in the outcome of the battles.
The annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany in 1871 did not bring about any change in the wealth or income of the average German citizen. The inhabitants of the annexed province retained their property rights. They became citizens of the Reich, and returned deputies to the Reichstag. The German Treasury collected taxes in the newly acquired territory. But it was, on the other hand, burdened with the expense of its administration. This was in the days of laissez faire.
The old liberals were right in asserting that no citizen of a liberal and democratic nation profits from a victorious war. But it is different in this age of migration and trade barriers. Every wage earner and every peasant is hurt by the policy of a foreign government, barring his access to countries in which natural conditions of production are more favorable than in his native country. Every toiler is hurt by a foreign country’s import duties penalizing the sale of the products of his work. If a victorious war destroys such trade and migration walls, the material well-being of the masses concerned is favored. Pressure on the domestic labor market can be relieved by the emigration of a part of the workers. The emigrants earn more in their new country, and the restriction of the supply on the domestic labor market tends to raise wage rates at home too. The abolition of foreign tariffs increases exports and thereby the demand on the domestic labor market. Production on the least fertile soil is discontinued at home, and the farmers go to countries in which better soil is still available. The average productivity of labor all over the world increases because production under the least favorable conditions is curtailed in the emigration countries and replaced by an expansion of production in the immigration countries offering more favorable physical opportunities.
But, on the other hand, the interests of the workers and farmers in the comparatively underpopulated countries are injured. For them the tendency toward an equalization of wage rates and farm yields (per capita of the men tilling a unit of land), inherent in a world of free mobility of labor, results, for the immediate future, in a drop of income, no matter how beneficial the later consequences of this free mobility may be.
It would be futile to object that there is unemployment in the comparatively underpopulated countries, foremost among them Australia and America, and that immigration would only result in an increase of unemployment figures, not in an improvement of the conditions of the immigrants. Unemployment as a mass phenomenon is always due to the enforcement of minimum wages higher than the potential wages which the unhampered labor market would have fixed. If the labor unions did not persistently try to raise wage rates above the potential market rates there would be no lasting unemployment of many workers. The problem is not the differences in union minimum rates in different countries, but those in potential market wage rates. If there were no trade-union manipulation of wages, Australia and America could absorb many millions of immigrant workers until an equalization of wages was reached. The market wage rates both in manufacturing and in agriculture are many times higher in Australia, in New Zealand, and in northern America than in continental Europe. This is due to the fact that in Europe poor mines are still exploited while much richer mining facilities remain unused in overseas countries. The farmers of Europe are tilling the rocky and barren soil in the Alps, the Carpathians, the Apennines, and the Balkan Mountains, and the sandy soil of the plains of northeastern Germany, while millions of acres of more fertile soil lie untouched in America and Australia. All these peoples are prevented from moving to places where their toil and trouble would be much more productive and where they could render better services to the consumers.
We can now realize why etatism must result in war whenever the underprivileged believe that they will be victorious. As things are in this age of etatism the Germans, the Italians, and the Japanese could possibly derive profit from a victorious war. It is not a warrior caste which drives Japan into ruthless aggression but considerations of wage policies which do not differ from those of the trade unions. The Australian trade unions wish to close their ports to immigration in order to raise wage rates in Australia. The Japanese workers wish to open the Australian ports in order to raise wage rates for the workers of their own race.
Pacifism is doomed in an age of etatism. In the old days of royal absolutism philanthropists thus addressed the kings: “Take pity on suffering mankind; be generous and merciful! You, of course, may profit from victory and conquest. But think of the grief of the widows and orphans, the desolation of those maimed, mutilated and crippled, the misery of those whose homes have been destroyed! Remember the commandment: Thou shalt not kill! Renounce glory and aggrandizement! Keep peace!” They preached to deaf ears. Then came liberalism. It did not declaim against war; it sought to establish conditions, in which war would not pay, to abolish war by doing away with the causes. It did not succeed because along came etatism. When the pacifists of our day tell the peoples that war cannot improve their well-being, they are mistaken. The aggressor nations remain convinced that a victorious war could improve the fate of their citizens.
These considerations are not a plea for opening America and the British Dominions to German, Italian, and Japanese immigrants. Under present conditions America and Australia would simply commit suicide by admitting Nazis, Fascists, and Japanese. They could as well directly surrender to the Führer and to the Mikado. Immigrants from the totalitarian countries are today the vanguard of their armies, a fifth column whose invasion would render all measures of defense useless. America and Australia can preserve their freedom, their civilizations, and their economic institutions only by rigidly barring access to the subjects of the dictators. But these conditions are the outcome of etatism. In the liberal past the immigrants came not as pacemakers of conquest but as loyal citizens of their new country.
However, it would be a serious omission not to mention the fact that immigration barriers are recommended by many contemporaries without any reference to the problem of wage rates and farm yields. Their aim is the preservation of the existing geographical segregation of various races. They argue this: Western civilization is an achievement of the Caucasian races of Western and Central Europe and their descendants in overseas countries. It would perish if the countries peopled by these Westerners were to be overflowed by the natives of Asia and Africa. Such an invasion would harm both the Westerners and the Asiatics and Africans. The segregation of various races is beneficial to all mankind because it prevents a disintegration of Western civilization. If the Asiatics and Africans remain in that part of the earth in which they have been living for many thousands of years, they will be benefited by the further progress of the white man’s civilization. They will always have a model before their eyes to imitate and to adapt to their own conditions. Perhaps in a distant future they themselves will contribute their share to the further advancement of culture. Perhaps at that time it will be feasible to remove the barriers of segregation. In our day—they say—such plans are out of the question.
We must not close our eyes to the fact that such views meet with the consent of the vast majority. It would be useless to deny that there exists a repugnance to abandoning the geographical segregation of various races. Even men who are fair in their appraisal of the qualities and cultural achievements of the colored races and severely object to any discrimination against those members of these races who are already living in the midst of white populations are opposed to a mass immigration of colored people. There are few white men who would not shudder at the picture of many millions of black or yellow people living in their own countries.
The elaboration of a system making for harmonious coexistence and peaceful economic and political coöperation among the various races is a task to be accomplished by coming generations. But mankind will certainly fail to solve this problem if it does not entirely discard etatism. Let us not forget that the actual menace to our civilization does not originate from a conflict between the white and colored races but from conflicts among the various peoples of Europe and of European ancestry. Some writers have prophesied the coming of a decisive struggle between the white race and the colored races. The reality of our time, however, is war between groups of white nations and between the Japanese and the Chinese who are both Mongolians. These wars are the outcome of etatism.
[* ]Benda, La Trahison des clercs (Paris, 1927), p. 253.