Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Misapprehended Darwinism - Omnipotent Government by Ludwig von Mises

Nothing could be more mistaken than the now fashionable at­tempt to apply the methods and concepts of the natural sciences to the solution of social problems. In the realm of nature we cannot know anything about final causes, by reference to which events can be explained. But in the field of human actions there is the finality of acting men. Men make choices. They aim at certain ends and they apply means in order to attain the ends sought.
Darwinism is one of the great achievements of the nineteenth century. But what is commonly called Social Darwinism is a garbled distortion of the ideas advanced by Charles Darwin.
It is an ineluctable law of nature, say these pseudo-Darwinists, that each living being devours the smaller and weaker ones and that, when its turn comes, it is swallowed by a still bigger and stronger one. In nature there are no such things as peace or mutual friendship. In nature there is always struggle and merciless anni­hilation of those who do not succeed in defending themselves. Liberalism's plans for eternal peace are the outcome of an illusory rationalism. The laws of nature cannot be abolished by men. In spite of the liberal's protest we are witnessing a recurrence of war. There have always been wars, there will always be wars. Thus modern nationalism is a return from fallacious ideas to the reality of nature and life.
Let us first incidentally remark that the struggles to which this doctrine refers are struggles between animals of different species. Higher animals devour lower animals; for the most part they do not feed in a cannibalistic way on their own species. But this fact is of minor importance.
The only equipment which the beasts have to use in their struggles is their physical strength, their bodily features, and their instincts. Man is better armed. Although bodily much weaker than many beasts of prey, and almost defenseless against the more dan­gerous microbes, man has conquered the earth through his most valuable gift, reason. Reason is the main resource of man in his struggle for survival. It is foolish to view human reason as some­thing unnatural or even contrary to nature. Reason fulfills a funda­mental biological function in human life. It is the specific feature of man. When man fights he nearly always makes use of it as his most efficient weapon. Reason guides his steps in his endeavors to improve the external conditions of his life and well‑being. Man is the reasonable animal, homo sapiens.
Now the greatest accomplishment of reason is the discovery of the advantages of social coöperation, and its corollary, the division of labor. Thanks to this achievement man has been able to centuple his progeny and still provide for each individual a much better life than nature offered to his nonhuman ancestors some hundred thousand years ago. In this sense—that there are many more people living today and that each of them enjoys a much richer life than his fathers did—we may apply the term progress. It is, of course, a judg­ment of value, and as such arbitrary. But it is made from a point of view which practically all men accept, even if they—like Count Tolstoi or Mahatma Gandhi—seem unconditionally to disparage all our civilization. Human civilization is not something achieved against nature; it is rather the outcome of the working of the innate qualities of man.
Social coöperation and war are in the long run incompatible. Self-sufficient individuals may fight each other without destroying the foundations of their existence. But within the social system of coöperation and division of labor war means disintegration. The progressive evolution of society requires the progressive elimina­tion of war. Under present conditions of international division of labor there is no room left for wars. The great society of world-embracing mutual exchange of commodities and services demands a peaceful coexistence of states and nations. Several hundred years ago it was necessary to eliminate the wars between the noblemen ruling various countries and districts, in order to pave the way for a peaceful development of domestic production. Today it is in­dispensable to achieve the same for the world community. To abolish international war is not more unnatural than it was five hundred years ago to prevent the barons from fighting each other, or two thousand years ago to prevent a man from robbing and kill­ing his neighbor. If men do not now succeed in abolishing war, civilization and mankind are doomed.
From a correct Darwinist viewpoint it would be right to say: Social coöperation and division of labor are man's foremost tools in his struggle for survival. The intensification of this mutuality in the direction of a world-embracing system of exchange has considerably improved the conditions of mankind. The maintenance of this system requires lasting peace. The abolition of war is therefore an important item in man's struggle for survival.

Omnipotent Government

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