Front Page Titles (by Subject) 3.: Interventionism and Legal Discrimination against Jews - Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War
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3.: Interventionism and Legal Discrimination against Jews - 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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Interventionism and Legal Discrimination against Jews
In the days before the ascendancy of liberalism the individuals professing a certain religious creed formed an order, a caste, of their own. The creed determined the membership in a group which assigned to each member privileges and disqualifications (privilegia odiosa.) In only a few countries has liberalism abolished this state of affairs. In many European countries, in which in any other respect freedom of conscience and of the practice of religion and equality of all citizens under the law are granted, matrimonial law and the register of births, marriages, and deaths remain separate for each religious group. Membership within a church or religious community preserves a peculiar legal character. Every citizen is bound to belong to one of the religious groups, and he bestows this quality upon his children. The membership and procedure to be observed in cases of change of religious allegiance are regulated by public law. Special provisions are made for people who do not want to belong to any religious community. This state of things makes it possible to establish the religious allegiance of a man and of his ancestors with legal precision in the same unquestionable way in which kinship can be ascertained in inheritance cases.
The bearing of this fact can be elucidated by contrasting it with conditions concerning attachment to a linguistic group. Membership within a linguistic group never had a caste quality. It was and is a matter of fact but not a legal status.* It is as a rule impossible to establish the linguistic group to which a man’s dead ancestors belonged. The only exceptions are those ancestors who were eminent personalities, writers, or political leaders of linguistic groups. It is further for the most part impossible to establish whether or not a man changed his linguistic allegiance at some time in his past. He who speaks German and declares himself to be a German need seldom fear that his statement could be disproved by documentary evidence that his parents or he himself in the past were not German. Even a foreign accent need not betray him. In countries with a linguistically mixed population the accent and inflection of each group influence the other. Among the leaders of German nationalism in the eastern parts of Germany, and in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the other eastern countries there were numerous men who spoke German with a sharp Slavonic, Hungarian, or Italian accent, whose names sounded foreign, or who had only a short time before substituted German-sounding names for their native ones. There were even Nazi Storm Troopers whose still living parents understood no German. It happened often that brothers and sisters belonged to different linguistic groups. One could not attempt to discriminate legally against such neophytes, because it was impossible to determine the facts in a legally unquestionable way.
In an unhampered market society there is no legal discrimination against anybody. Everyone has the right to obtain the place within the social system in which he can successfully work and make a living. The consumer is free to discriminate, provided that he is ready to pay the cost. A Czech or a Pole may prefer to buy at higher cost in a shop owned by a Slav instead of buying cheaper and better in a shop owned by a German. An anti-Semite may forego being cured of an ugly disease by the employment of the “Jewish” drug Salvarsan and have recourse to a less efficacious remedy. In this arbitrary power consists what economists call consumer’s sovereignty.
Interventionism means compulsory discrimination, which furthers the interests of a minority of citizens at the expense of the majority. Nevertheless discrimination can be applied in a democratic community too. Various minority groups form an alliance and thereby a majority group in order to obtain privileges for each. For instance, a country’s wheat producers, cattle breeders, and wine growers form a farmers’ party; they succeed in obtaining discrimination against foreign competitors and thus privileges for each of the three groups. The costs of the privilege granted to the wine growers burden the rest of the community—including the cattle breeders and wheat producers—and so on for each of the others.
Whoever sees the facts from this angle—and logically they cannot be viewed from any other—realizes that the arguments brought forward in favor of this so-called producer’s policy are untenable. One minority group alone could not obtain any such privilege because the majority would not tolerate it. But if all minority groups or enough of them obtain a privilege, every group that did not get a more valuable privilege than the rest suffers. The political ascendancy of interventionism is due to the failure to recognize this obvious truth. People favor discrimination and privileges because they do not realize that they themselves are consumers and as such must foot the bill. In the case of protectionism, for example, they believe that only the foreigners against whom the import duties discriminate are hurt. It is true the foreigners are hurt, but not they alone: the consumers who must pay higher prices suffer with them.
Now wherever there are Jewish minorities—and in every country the Jews are only a minority—it is as easy to discriminate against them legally as against foreigners, because the quality of being a Jew can be established in a legally valid way. Discrimination against this helpless minority can be made to seem very plausible; it seems to further the interests of all non-Jews. People do not realize that it is certain to hurt the interests of the non-Jews as well. If Jews are barred from access to a medical career, the interests of non-Jewish doctors are favored, but the interests of the sick are hurt. Their freedom to choose the doctor whom they trust is restricted. Those who did not want to consult a Jewish doctor do not gain anything but those who wanted to do so are injured.
In most European countries it is technically feasible to discriminate legally against Jews and the offspring of Jews. It is furthermore politically feasible, because Jews are usually insignificant minorities whose votes do not count much in elections. And finally, it is considered economically sound in an age in which government interference for the protection of the less efficient producer against more efficient and cheaper competitors is regarded as a beneficial policy. The non-Jewish grocer asks, Why not protect me too? You protect the manufacturer and the farmer against the foreigners producing better and at lower cost; you protect the worker against the competition of immigrant labor; you should protect me against the competition of my neighbor, the Jewish grocer.
Discrimination need have nothing to do with hatred or repugnance toward those against whom it is applied. The Swiss and Italians do not hate the Americans or Swedes; nevertheless, they discriminate against American and Swedish products. People always dislike competitors. But for the consumer the foreigners who supply him with commodities are not competitors but purveyors. The non-Jewish doctor may hate his Jewish competitor. But he asks for the exclusion of Jews from the medical profession precisely because many non-Jewish patients not only do not hate Jewish doctors but prefer them to many non-Jewish doctors and patronize them. The fact that the Nazi racial laws impose heavy penalties for sexual intercourse between Jews and “Aryans” does not indicate the existence of hatred between these two groups. It would be needless to keep people who hate each other from sexual relations. However, in an investigation devoted to the political problems of nationalism and Nazism we need not deal with the issues of sex pathology involved. To study the inferiority complexes and sexual perversity responsible for the Nuremberg racial laws and for the sadistic bestialities exhibited in killing and torturing Jews is the task of psychiatry.
In a world in which people have grasped the meaning of a market society, and therefore advocate a consumer’s policy, there is no legal discrimination against Jews. Whoever dislikes the Jews may in such a world avoid patronizing Jewish shopkeepers, doctors, and lawyers. On the other hand, in a world of interventionism only a miracle can in the long run hinder legal discrimination against Jews. The policy of protecting the less efficient domestic producer against the more efficient foreign producer, the artisan against the manufacturer, and the small shop against the department store and the chain stores would be incomplete if it did not protect the “Aryan” against the Jew.
Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda did not succeed in preventing German “Aryans” from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors. They did not patronize the Jews unawares—“Aryan” competitors were careful to tell them again and again that these people were Jews. Whoever wanted to get rid of his Jewish competitors could not rely on an alleged hatred of Jews; he was under the necessity of asking for legal discrimination against them.
Such discrimination is not the result of nationalism or of racism. It is basically—like nationalism—a result of interventionism and the policy of favoring the less efficient producer to the disadvantage of the consumer.
Nearly all writers dealing with the problem of anti-Semitism have tried to demonstrate that the Jews have in some way or other, through their behavior or attitudes, excited anti-Semitism. Even Jewish authors and non-Jewish opponents of anti-Semitism share this opinion; they too search for Jewish faults driving non-Jews toward anti-Semitism. But if the cause of anti-Semitism were really to be found in distinctive features of the Jews, these properties would have to be extraordinary virtues and merits which would qualify the Jews as the elite of mankind. If the Jews themselves are to blame for the fact that those whose ideal is perpetual war and bloodshed, who worship violence and are eager to destroy freedom, consider them the most dangerous opponents of their endeavors, it must be because the Jews are foremost among the champions of freedom, justice, and peaceful coöperation among nations. If the Jews have incurred the Nazis’ hatred through their own conduct, it is no doubt because what was great and noble in the German nation, all the immortal achievements of Germany’s past, were either accomplished by the Jews or congenial to the Jewish mind. As the parties seeking to destroy modern civilization and return to barbarism have put anti-Semitism at the top of their programs, this civilization is apparently a creation of the Jews. Nothing more flattering could be said of an individual or of a group than that the deadly foes of civilization have well-founded reasons to persecute them.
The truth is that while the Jews are the objects of anti-Semitism, their conduct and qualities did not play a decisive role in inciting and spreading its modern version. That they form everywhere a minority which can be legally defined in a precise way makes it tempting, in an age of interventionism, to discriminate against them. Jews have, of course, contributed to the rise of modern civilization; but this civilization is neither completely nor predominantly their achievement. Peace and freedom, democracy and justice, reason and thought are not specifically Jewish. Many things, good and bad, happen on the earth without the participation of Jews. The anti-Semites grossly exaggerate when they see in the Jews the foremost representatives of modern culture and make them alone responsible for the fact that the world has changed since the centuries of the barbarian invasions.*
In the dark ages heathens, Christians, and Moslems persecuted the Jews on account of their religion. This motive has lost much of its strength and is still valid only for a comparatively few Catholics and Fundamentalists who make the Jews responsible for the spread of free thinking. And this too is a mistaken idea. Neither Hume nor Kant, neither Laplace nor Darwin were Jews. Higher criticism of the Bible was developed by Protestant theologians.† The Jewish rabbis opposed it bitterly for many years.
Neither were liberalism, capitalism, or a market economy Jewish achievements. There are those who try to justify anti-Semitism by denouncing the Jews as capitalists and champions of laissez faire. Other anti-Semites—and often the same ones—blame the Jews for being communists. These contradictory charges cancel each other. But it is a fact that anticapitalist propaganda has contributed a good deal to the popularity of anti-Semitism. Simple minds do not grasp the meaning of the abstract terms capital and exploitation, capitalists and exploiters; they substitute for them the terms Jewry and Jews. However, even if the Jews were more unpopular with some people than is really the case, there would be no discrimination against them if they were not a minority clearly distinguishable legally from other people.
[* ]We may disregard some occasional attempts, made in old Austria, to give legal status to a man’s linguistic character.
[* ]We are dealing here with conditions in Central and Western Europe and in America. In many parts of Eastern Europe things were different. There modern civilization was really predominantly an achievement of Jews.
[† ]Bishop Hudal calls David Friedrich Strauss, the outstanding figure in German higher criticism, a “non-Aryan.” (op. cit., p. 23). This is incorrect; Strauss had no Jewish ancestors (see his biography by Th. Ziegler, I, pp. 4–6). On the other hand, Nazi anti-Catholics say that Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, was of Jewish origin (Seldes, op. cit., p. 261). There is no proof of this statement.