Portrait of Ludwig von Mises

Mises on the interconnection between economic and political freedom (1949)

Found in: Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, vol. 2 (LF ed.)

The Austrian free market economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) argues not only that political and economic liberty are inextricably linked but that economic liberty is the foundation stone for all political liberties:


Freedom, as people enjoyed it in the democratic countries of Western civilization in the years of the old liberalism’s triumph, was not a product of constitutions, bills of rights, laws, and statutes. Those documents aimed only at safeguarding liberty and freedom, firmly established by the operation of the market economy, against encroachments on the part of officeholders. No government and no civil law can guarantee and bring about freedom otherwise than by supporting and defending the fundamental institutions of the market economy. Government means always coercion and compulsion and is by necessity the opposite of liberty. Government is a guarantor of liberty and is compatible with liberty only if its range is adequately restricted to the preservation of what is called economic freedom. Where there is no market economy, the best-intentioned provisions of constitutions and laws remain a dead letter.