- F. A. Harper, Introduction
- Gustavo R. Velasco, On the 90th Anniversary of Ludwig Von Mises
- F. A. Harper, Ludwig Von Mises
- Property and Freedom, Alberto Benegas Lynch
- Technological Progress and Social Resistance, Guillermo Walter Klein
- Principles Or Expediency? F. A. Von Hayek
- Protection For Farmers, Antony Fisher
- For a Philosophy of Choice, Lord Grantchester
- The Surest Protection, Ralph Harris
- Towards the Just Society, Ralph Horwitz
- Size and Well-being, J. Enoch Powell
- Pour Eviter “une Collectivisation Par Annuities”, René Berger-perrin
- En Défense De L'economie Libérale: Réponse à Quelques Objections, Gaston Leduc
- L'occident Pour Son Malheur a Choisi Keynes Contre Mises, Pierre Lhoste-lachaume
- Das Ordnungsdenken In Der Martwirtschaft, Ludwig Erhard
- Unsere Gesellschaftsordnung Und Die Radikale Linke, Edith Eucken-erdsiek
- Privateigentum— Die Für Mitmenschen Günstigste Lösung Bei Den Produktionsmitteln, Wolfgang Frickhöffer
- Macht Oder ökonomisches Gesetz, Ernst Heuss
- The Reliability of Financial Statements, Ulrich Leffson and Jörg Baetge
- Ist Die Inflation Unser Schicksal? Alfred Müller-armack
- Der Reiche Goethe Und Der Arme Schiller, Volkmar Muthesius
- Krise Der Politischen Formen In Europa, Otto Von Habsburg
- The Need to Make Cognizance Available, Ulysses R. Dent
- Ways to Communism, Giuseppe Ugo Papi
- Convergence Theories and Ownership of Property, Kenzo Kiga
- Soaring Urban Land Prices and Market Economy, Toshio Murata
- Jesus and the Question of Wealth, Alberto G. Salceda
- A Program For a Liberal Party, Gustavo R. Velasco
- On the Entrepreneur Andries De Graaff
- La Integracion Economica De America Latina, Romulo A. Ferrero
- Problems of Economic Responsibility and Initiative Re-emerging In Eastern Europe, Ljubo Sirc
- Rent Control In Sweden: Lessons From a Thirty Year Old Socio-economic Experiment, Sven Rydenfelt
Technological Progress and Social Resistance
Guillermo Walter Klein
Ranke's dictum that history should picture the past “wie es eigentlich gewesen” one may paraphrase saying that we should try to understand the present “wie es eigentlich ist”—as it actually is. It is fitting, I think, on the occasion of our revered and beloved Jubilar's ninetieth birthday to stop and look around in order to do just that. Such has been the unwaveringly maintained attitude of Professor von Mises, and to recognize that it is also the motor of advancing human thought in general does not detract a whit from the lasting value and brilliance of his work, but ranks him among the great thinkers of the West.
Alas, this stock taking will perforce be subjective. The present writer in his youth has been lastingly influenced by Max Weber, whose endeavour at an analysis of human societies based on “understanding” and devoid of value judgements has seemed to him the very aim of social studies. But an aim never quite to be reached. Man's perception is limited by his times and circumstance—"we don't see but what we know,” as Goethe said. The choice of the factors considered to be relevant assumes already decisions based on personal preferences. There is no thinker of the past whose ideas do not look to us as coloured by the values he and his times took for granted. It is unlikely that what we think and say today will not look to our posterity as carrying the same mark. Our view of the world perforce will be our view. What has distinguished the lasting thinkers has been their effort and success in keeping their eyes at horizon level and their consciousness of the dependence of that level upon the viewer's emplacement, which has saved them of the grosser distortions of mere foreground view.
The present trend of a purely quantitative approach to economics, the jolting jargon of contemporary sociology, often simply due to clumsy translation of current foreign idioms, hardly digestible to those of us who still believe in style (and how excellent a stylist Professor von Mises is!), are in their way no doubt efforts to ban value judgments from the area of scientific thought, but alas how inadequate, bookish, emptied of reality the picture or model becomes, yet still failing in the intended exclusion of value judgments which, surreptitiously or openly, pitch their tents within the field staked out by those pallisades of dry and thorny abstractions.
One of the attainments of our Jubilar making of him a teacher of whom there will be always very much to be learned, is the skill and penetration with which he has always kept abstract thinking in direct communication with the multiform substance of life.
The following reflections on “development,” mostly deriving from personal experience, will avoid abstractions and owing to space limit even statistics. They do not pretend to be exhaustive, not even perhaps well balanced. But I believe they point to factors which have some relevance.
2. Outstanding Features of the Present Scene
In taking stock of the present scene, this writer believes to perceive the following outstanding features: (a) an ever accelerating increase of the technical capacity of mankind or at least some important sectors of mankind; (b) concomitant accelerating changes of the modes of cooperation and relations among individuals, and their aggregation, in short, what I should like to call the texture of society; (c) a cumulative increase and crowding of world population; (d) a variety of negative reactions or defensive attitudes or blocking mechanisms, apparently intended to, or anyhow effective in, warding off these accelerating changes; (e) a spread of compulsive political systems, communist or otherwise collectivist, and the consequent authoritarian government interference with what was up to then private activity. These five features seem to me closely interlocking.
3. Amplification of Technology
The present expansion of technology seems to have no parallel during any earlier period. To give this assertion more weight than that of a phrase, one would like to have a standard by which to measure quantitatively technological advance. I don't know whether any such standard exists, but there is enough material available to construct indices allowing to compare the technological advance per time unit of different ages. The power of energy capable of controlled release; the distances that man may cover; the velocity he may transmit to objects, including himself; the smallness and bigness of phenomena which may be subjected to observation; the speed of calculation; the range of life expectancy; the volume and chemical content of materials for use and consumption per man/time unit; the individual time and physical effort required to sustain human life and many other measurable factors could serve to assemble such a yardstick.
Technological advance appears to be almost synonymous with expanded and intensified division of labour, as has been stressed, since Adam Smith, by all great economists, Professor von Mises not the least of them.
4. Changes in Personal and Social Textures
It is widely recognized that accelerating change and the expanding range of the division of labour seem to segregate each individual from the smaller human units in which he was and still is imbedded, changing the pattern of his emotional attachment to persons and activities. A much greater mobility is required of him, a readiness to change his dwelling place, profession and proficiency, to fit into new teams, since any activity he might have chosen may become obsolete overnight. Stability of position is less assured, whilst new ways of insuring against the risks of change are developing. A process of simultaneous weakening and accenting individuality is underway. People are becoming more exchangeable, more uniform, but are also offered a wider choice of differentiating knowledge, interests, pastimes and socially neutral values. Being diminutive cogs in an enormous, unified economy, they may feel more impotent despite augmented available means. They may realize more clearly than in earlier times that they depend upon the cooperation of hundreds of millions of unknown fellow men and the decision of millions of leaders.
Change has become a value in itself in the most advanced societies. Otherwise it could not go on at the pace it does. It is assumed that change assures greater flexibility, adaptability and opportunity. It is also commonly still assumed that in the end conditions will be the better, not the worse for change. However, change may evidently be for the worse. Or it may be for the better in some and for the worse in some other measure or period. And it will often be impossible to balance the long term pros and cons, as that would require the gift of prophecy.
5. Ecological Ravage and Human Proliferation
Ecological deterioration as counterpart of an ever growing supply of commodities is notably the change for the worse of which people in the advanced countries are most aware. Such deterioration seems to have happened often in the past in connection with technological advance.
In the less advanced societies the change for the worse most in view is probably unchecked human proliferation. Again the same effect, if on a smaller scale, seems to have accompanied past technological advance, although the progressive rather than the arrested societies may have turned out to become more prolific in the past.
Ecological ravage and human proliferation may be interrelated
This proposition sounds somewhat paradoxical, since population growth supposes improved living conditions and a larger population may, although does not have to, intensify the division of labour and with it its efficiency. Biology teaches us that crisis in the life of species are sometimes preceded by abnormal proliferation, it being uncertain in which direction the causal sequence runs. Whatever else man may be, he is definitely a biological phenomenon. This outlook we are inclined to neglect, feeling ourselves lords of the creation, free in our individual decisions, prompted by our ideas rather than by external circumstance, capable of keeping the species on a safe course, either by the reasoned decision of the many or the reason and force of the few.
Recent times have witnessed an enormously increased general welfare within the advanced societies, engendering endeavours to help the less advanced ones to create a comparable welfare in their midst. Their population increase has often frustrated the intent. More than anything else, this has awakened man to the menace implicit in the trend.
Does this force us to give up our confidence in the free decisions of the many? By no means. No doubt, individuals may show inclinations which seem at variance with the interest of the species. Conversely individuals are moved by natural drives which do not answer to the individual interest in its narrowest sense. But this is precisely a decisive argument for relying on the working of individual decisions. The gregarious instincts, the sex drive, the care for the offspring, tend to preserve the life of the species, the cohesion of human groupings and in the end also the needs of the individuals.
6. Homeostatic Population Regulation
Zoologists have found that members of animal species living in a state of nature follow behaviour patterns which keep their population within bounds. Yet where external influences destroy the balance of the state of nature to which the species or group has adapted, these checks will fail and need to be replaced by new checks in accordance with the altered conditions, to be developed through time consuming learning or natural selection. If the restoration of a state of nature is continuously disturbed such readaptation may also fail.
It is said that the sacred cows in India reduce the natural resources available to the human population of that nation. If this bovine population were, in addition, cared for by modern veterinary methods and fed enriched, balanced food, it is likely that their numbers would grow out of all proportion and in the end metaphorically eat up their human hosts. Only the ensuing hardships could reactivate behaviour patterns tending to equate population to available resources.
Modern procedures extending human life expectancy are the achievement of societies which after expanding while they found suitable empty expanses on the globe, have since spontaneously checked proliferation. Sanitary, medical and nutritional improvements, occupation of new territory and subsequent arrested population growth thus appear as reciprocally balancing behaviours and societies conducting themselves in this way may be supposed to be living in their “state of nature.” But when the improvements are introduced to societies still proliferating in response to the heavy toll taken from them by natural enemies the sudden disappearance of these through none of their doing will disturb their state of nature and throw them off balance. The development of attitudes equating population to resources are likely to take a longer time and entail suffering as the momentum of previous population growth will mechanically continue for a while after the new restrictive attitudes have already been developed.
If the rate of change accelerated indefinitely, e.g. if average human life extended successively to one-, two-, four-hundred years, adaptation may fail altogether because of being repeatedly interrupted; or it would have to proceed on a level unknown today, in accordance with such a new dimension of change.
7. Cultural Population Regulation
Not only natural tendencies are active in this field, but also cultural traditions, religious teachings, psychological reactions and historical experience. Under their influence, governments may try to sustain or provoke population trends, as the Romans did and contemporary France. Such policies may be pursued by legislation or by suasion or may be the outcome of simple, unarticulated feelings prevalent in a society. I shall take up this point later.
8. Differing Commitments to Change in Advanced Societies
Although change per se as exponent of social liveliness appears to have been raised to the dignity of a value, different sectors may find that change only merits such promotion if it moves in a given direction. Cleavages may thus result among different groups in a changing society. In America a few years ago the meaning of change was taken to be technological advance and intensified division of labour and its social reflection a homogenized, internally rather unstructured national community, containing little or not very solid sub-groups. At present many younger people in America seem to have turned away from the first part of that understanding of desired change, but seem still committed to the second part, its social counterpart, moving also towards the breaking up of the smaller social units, among which the unicellular family. Thus also the dissenting movement in America is apparently not directed against change as such. Nevertheless, it is an important shift the significance of which is not yet quite clear. Intergenerational revolt has been common during the last two centuries but whether its meaning was similar to the present movement is not easy to decide. No comparable eruptions are yet discernible in Europe, perhaps because industrial Europe is still in transition, hesitating whether to move into the forefront of technological advance.
9. Confused Reactions in Less Advanced Societies
Continued rapid change for change's sake may not be easily accepted in firmly textured “older” societies. It is perhaps useful first to clarify that where there are antagonistic social layers, there may be strong currents in pursuit of “structural” change, meaning the unseating of social groups in control of social power. This may also prompt intergenerational confrontation. But it has little to do with “textural” change as I tried to describe it in section 4 and with which I shall be at present concerned.
In the older type societies one may observe revealing contradictions between declared aims and rejected means. Progress achieved, sometimes called “modernization,” conceived as a final stage of plenty and power, is much coveted. But progress as a never ending process requiring certain conditions and producing certain effects, is much less desired. The inevitable changes in the social texture (dissolution of emotional bonds within smaller groupings) are strongly rejected by many, while changes in the stratification and distribution of social power may be welcomed in different ways by different members. The role of an expanding, flexible, increasingly subtle, disciplined and precise division and recombination of labour is seldom understood. The indispensable conditions: continued retraining, the application of considerable capital per man, the scope to be given to managerial skill, the merging of the economy into larger units to warrant such division of labour are not often recognized. And even if they are, persuasion is too weak to overcome a particularism called “nationalism” born from apprehension of “losing economic independence” or being “subjected to exploitation,” terms which seldom correspond to something real but cover the unwillingness of being contaminated with social textures resented as alien and destructive of national idenity. It is resistance against this change of social aggregation, much more than any existing power structure, that stands in the way of successful technological advance.
10. Some Differences Among Older Type Societies
Tremendous differences separate the older type societies and the ways in which they react differ accordingly. Very schematically we may distinguish between (1) the very archaic societies, such as the Andean Indians and the Sub-Saharan black Africans; (2) the nations which remember having been once cultural leaders, as the Arabs and the populations of the northern shores of the Mediterranean; (3) the old and highly cultivated societies which developed on lines differing from those followed by the West, not less subtle but less efficient, established in Taiwan, South Korea and not so long ago Japan. I leave out the huge bodies of India (far from homogeneous), China (in the course of transformations which nobody can yet tell where they may lead) and Eastern Europe (a heterodox province of the West).
11. The Learners
The East Asian societies went into the process of adapting to Western technology with enormous zeal and initiative, leaving little to chance transference through trade and other contacts. Keeping abreast of events, Japan has joined the technologically most advanced group of nations, as to the range and quality of its production, organizational talent and arrested proliferation, yet still maintaining tradition bound smaller groupings within its society, including relics of the wider family and a unicellular family of a texture somewhat different from the Western forms. South Korea and Taiwan seem to follow a related pattern. One might venture the hypothesis, that the members of these societies, conceiving themselves traditionally as learners from more advanced alien cultures—originally the Chinese—have developed techniques which allow them to absorb other societies' superior achievements up to clearly defined self-set limits, without attaching any stigma to this adaptation nor hurt to national self-esteem. The maintenance of traditions considered of value may require of them extra toil but affords the advantage of a richer assortment of cultural elements.
Few societies have the stamina, cohesion, initiative and discipline of the Japanese and their example will not be easy for others to follow. They were additionally favoured by factors which may not recur elsewhere: their highly developed crafts; their not too depressed living standards; their productive surplus formerly used to embellish life and now available for capital accumulation; the size of their society allowing for organized division of labour on the appropriate scale; the policies of free trade and enterprise prevailing at the time, allowing them to organize a fruitful industrial and financial coordination of labour beyond the national frontiers; a social texture still prevailing throughout the world but especially at home, thanks to which social leadership was heeded with deep respect. Japanese adaptation to modern technology did not avoid the particularistic reactions mentioned in section 9, but they did not obstruct technological advance, owing to exceptionally helpful external and internal factors.
12. The Former Teachers
At the opposite pole stand those societies whose traditions see them as teachers of mankind. The Arabs, propagators of a creed born in their midst, have been also cultural leaders after a brief and probably popular forgotten period of assimilation of Greek, Latin and Persian thought. These traditions, more than a thousand years of almost uninterrupted war with the peoples of the West, an advance arrested by a number of unfavourable circumstances, the rigidity of a religious legal system regulating in unchangeable script down to minute details of their social organization and everyday behaviour, seem to make it particularly odious to them to seek progress in assimilating not so much alien techniques as the changes in social textures and behaviour that go with them. The conflict between their craving the fruits of progress and the psychological obstacles that make the process so hazardous may go far to explain the restlessness of their societies.
The nations of southern Europe, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, have also been teachers of mankind and especially of the peoples of the North. Seeing themselves demoted to pupils of their former pupils has laid the ground for resentments, sharpened by religious schism: East-West and South-North. Particularly Reformation and Counter-Reformation have consolidated differences in rules of behaviour and family textures that were for long periods sources of reciprocal antipathy. However, historical developments have allayed most of these sentiments, which at present seem to have disappeared altogether in Europe, although the strong southern leftist movements, not exactly duplicated in the North, may be obliquely derived from the same tensions. But these secular resentments continue in Latin America in accordance with the oft observed phenomenon that fashions and passions survive in the outlaying provinces of a cultural area well after they have disappeared at the Centre.
13. The Technological Gap and the Archaic Societies
The technological gap between America and the rest of the world is real. Most conscious of it are other industrial countries as may be seen by the many European publications dealing with it. Here the gap is narrow, but the industrial countries know what they are concerned about. Between the industrial countries and other less advanced societies the gap is much wider and the understanding of its nature is correspondingly less. Its breadth is enormous as related to the archaic societies and misconceptions or simple ignorance are equally conspicuous. If superior technology has always consisted in superior knowledge and the disposal of tools multiplying the capacity of human limbs and facilitating the deployment of human thought, it now means the command of procedures coordinating and pooling the thought, research and material effort of untold numbers not of any people but persons intellectually and behaviourly trained to act efficiently in such a vast assemblage. A gathering of disjointed masses will not do. The members of archaic societies, organized as they always are in very small units, cannot even conceive what it is about. The gap is not unbridgeable but supposes such a deep transformation of less advanced and particularly the archaic societies that nobody can tell when and how it may happen.
14. Different Archaic Societies
Archaic societies may be more or less willing and more or less able to undergo such change. South Saharan black Africans have commonly been under colonial rule for less than a century. Although it might have hurt self-esteem, especially of the large ethnic units, colonial rule has almost always improved personal safety, health (except where security favoured the propagation of diseases), economic prosperity and opportunities of education. The colonial powers had outgrown religious and social fanaticism, had no stake in destroying the social systems under which Africans lived and proscribed only customs at extreme variance with European feelings, as human sacrifice. Africans are not overly fertile and continued being plagued by tropical diseases and high mortality rates. The slave trade of preceding centuries would not have been possible without African tribes and potentates providing the commodity. European traders only contributed the market and transport. Therefore, Africans on the whole did not develop strong resentments against the former colonizers nor is their attachment to their own social system overly charged with conservative emotion. Owing to high mortality rates, their desire for progeny is strong but might yield with improvement of health. Africans in general would probably not put up emotional resistance against integrating closer than at present into a modern economic system led by industrial nations.
Very different is the attitude of the South American Indians. Their clash with Spaniards left a deep and lasting trauma. According to the spirit of the times, Spanish rule lacked all those features which made colonialism in Africa bearable and in many ways beneficial. In the course of history the contact of societies separated by a very wide technological gradient has often lead to the destruction of the backward society by war, disruptive enslavement, diseases, discouragement, confinement into habitats barely permitting survival and miscegenation. Up to modern times this has been the lot of most of the smaller backward ethnic groups. What has preserved the Andean Indians has been their number which, though it greatly shrunk in early colonial centuries, recovered later. It is in this light that some violent reactions against family planning, encouraged alike by the catholic clergy and Marxist catechists must be seen and understood.
The Spanish attempt at destroying paganism would, if successful, have dissolved the Amerindian value system and with it indigenous society itself, since shared values are the cement without which associations fall asunder. It is in connection with that danger that the resistance of Andean Indians to fundamental change in their style of life has to be seen and understood. Having been cut off for so long from the main body of mankind and its cultural evolution, it is likely that American Indians had a comparatively poor training in conceptualization and analytical faculty, the growth of which one may suppose to accompany the use and improvement of mechanical devices. Feeling themselves thus doubly handicapped, they did not attempt to discover the sources of their conquerors' superior power, but withdrew into a deliberate attitude of mental torpor vis-a-vis the foreigners' ways, ignoring as much thereof as possible and only taking over what was forced on them or had to be shown in order to avoid repression. Within this hull of apparent stolid indifference, they continued their traditional life in extreme poverty in their small communities, unable to develop a social solidarity embracing larger social units. Periodically desperation drove them to revolt against the oppressors. This role of oppressor, as though one of those devil masks used in their colourful pantomimes, has been fitted, with changing control of power over land and mines and suitable indoctrination, to successive different impersonators: originally the Spaniards, then the local upper classes, it has been passed on to the Americans and lately, in a curious re-edition of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, to the administrators and technicians of State owned mines or cooperativized former private exploitations, irrespective of whether the impersonators had actually committed any acts of oppression.
15. The Latin American Plight
Citizens of Latin American countries enclosing substantial bodies of Andean Indians are confronted with a double problem: to steer the western minded sector—often a minority, always a small number—into the stream of technological advance through the rapids of changing social texture and to modernize, and finally merge with, their archaic sector, a process even more beset with uncertainties which no society as yet has succeeded in carrying through. Casting members of the industrial societies into the role of the oppressors, in which large sectors of the western minded fraction concur or acquiesce, may be seen as an instinctive attempt at giving both social bodies a common stand.
That oppression and expolitation are compulsive ingredients of thought in societies where vast social bodies have been subjected to them for centuries, is understandable. But only few Latin American countries contain archaic societies, whilst the obsession is shared by all, whether more advanced or backward. It may be a common feature of societies who have experienced prolongued foreign unenlightened rule. Latin American emancipation was a reaction against a greedy and narrow minded metropolitan mercantilism, hostile to colonial economic development, and characteristically occured as this policy had softened its grip. Periodically a nightmare surfaces, of fears of being exploited by foreign powers whose nationals have placed capital in the country in order to render technical services, benefit natural resources or establish industries; of being victimized by big corporations; of having their way barred towards domestic technological advancement; to lose control over the national destiny; in short of becoming a colony again. As mentioned in sections 9 and 12, this syndrome may be understood as nonacceptance of changing textures in social agglutination felt as a loss of national identity. It is often reinforced by reminiscences of historical South-North antipathies and affords the solace of a good hearty hatred.
16. The Role Assigned to the State
This syndrome works as an effective blocking mechanism. It obstructs the social changes normally associated with modern technological advance and fetters the most enterprising members of the nation (in Japan the artificers of development), branding them as pawns of foreign exploiters if not exploiters in their own right. It hinders foreign investment, indispensable when local capital is short and deters local private investment, since where foreign investment is not secure, local investment is less so. This calls in the State since where foreign and local capital is frightened away, there remains only the recourse to compulsive accumulation of funds by the public purse either for direct investment or the repayment of loans.
But the State is called in for other reasons still. Technological advance is seen as a limited military campaign and not as an unlimitable development of new forms of work on a vaster cooperative scale. The campaign is intended to “seize” an all round technology (“economic independence”) and perhaps to shield it, up to the mythical point of “take off into self-sustained growth,” without having to enlarge the society to the needed size nor to give it the needed mobility. As this requires somebody to utter an unanswerable fiat, it is but natural to put the task in the hands of the public, particularly the military authorities.
17. The Task of Perceiving Reality
These strategies will have to be judged by their results. As they reject available capital, ignore economies of scale and labour mobility, encourage indiscipline, shake business morale by repudiating contractual obligations, neglect natural selection of leaders, it will be surprising indeed if they should succeed. But they may be pursued almost indefinitely because of the provident creation of scapegoats. Xenophobia may be used without any sign of wear and tear in putting the blame for failures at the door of foreigners over and over again.
One meets often the opinion that extremist leanings in less advanced nations are prompted by poverty and that more generous aid and a faster growth of effective (and not only statistical) per capita income will revert these inclinations. If exceptionally that may hold true, more often it will prove fallacious. A faster growth will generally speed up social transformation through dislocation and increased tensions.
However these lines do not propose to discourage aid. They intend to show the working of factors which, although far from unknown, are not always given the attention this writer believes they deserve as elements of reality. Man is more influenced by his ideas and wishes than by facts. He will look at reality through the grid of his mental constructs, convinced that the world is articulated as shown by the grid. Only through doubt, raised by occasionally discernible discrepancies between grid and fact can one come to grips with reality. And only when a sufficient number of members of different societies have grown conscious of what is reality and what is fancy and are prepared to act in accordance, can one hope that through their mutual understanding will their efforts at improving human conditions turn effective.