Unfortunately the ignorance that prevails in general makes the economic policies that benefit the people unpopular, at the same time as many wrong policies that harm the people become very popular. There is no doubt that if most of the people in every country of western civilization realized the advantages for everybody of the social system of capitalism, the majority would vote for the best.
Western countries would be much more prosperous than they are now and the difference between totalitarian and free countries would be greater. We must believe in truth and be optimistic in the hope that the day will come when more people will seriously study the writings of Professor Ludwig von Mises.
When that time comes, step by step, more and more people will think correctly and see clearly the fundamental problems of social life. Everywhere we hear people demanding changes.
These changes are usually called social reforms. Among these, in many countries—especially in the so-called under-developed countries—agrarian reform is a current slogan. None of the politicians demanding agrarian reform has taken the trouble to study the problem. They only wish to appeal to the emotional aspect, offering to those who do not own land and wish to become owners a piece of land that will be taken Edition: current; Page: [ 8 ] from a land owner.
In Latin American countries this is something that is happening in a very extended way. In Cuba, for instance, when Fidel Castro brought about the agrarian reform that was the way he proceeded. Everybody knows the result of the agrarian reform in Cuba. Production of sugar and other crops declined noticeably. A very able newspaper man who was in Cuba at the time the agrarian reform took place stated that when he asked the new farmers their opinion regarding the success of the agrarian reform, most of them emphatically remarked upon the failure of same, but at the same time most of them said they were not unhappy.
When the newspaper man requested an explanation of this apparent contradiction, the general reply was that they were content because Mr. John or Mr. Paul—who were big land owners—had been deprived of their property. This confirms the importance of envy and other low passions in politics when ignorance prevails. At present the new policy initiated in Chile with the coming into power of the communists, shows that even the more educated people have learnt very little.
We must admit that in Chile the politicians who took over have only read the wrong side of the library, say the Marxist authors. They are even incapable of learning by facts.
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It is incredible that they learnt nothing from the disastrous experience of Cuba. These sad experiences in Latin America show how far off the people in most of those countries are in understanding the relevance of private property to freedom and prosperity. A free market places the land in the hands of entrepeneurs, who are of greater benefit to the consumers; and the size of the land in the last instance depends on the will of the market. Many times the market indicates that the consumer is best served when the size of the land owned by the land owner is larger than it was before, as this makes it possible to have better quality crops at lower prices.
In the industrial areas social reforms that are proposed by demagogues and which, needless to say, Edition: current; Page: [ 9 ] deteriorate or even abolish private property, are related to measures that make it compulsory for workers to participate in the management of the enterprise.
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But also, as is happening in Chile, expropriation in the name of nationalization takes place. In fact, this policy results in confiscation, because when the government pays for expropriation the price generally is below the real value, with long payment terms in money devaluated by inflation.
The Chilean example is an experience that should be carefully studied. As time passes, the collectivistic policy adopted by Chile will show the way deterioration and abolition of private property ends all kind of individual freedom. In the last instance, every individual freedom depends on private property. The individual freedom that is easiest to understand nowadays, that is freedom of expression, is also dependent on private property: and this is so in spite of the thinking of many people who consider the right to express ideas freely is the fundamental one on which are based all the other liberties of the individual.
People who think in this way argue that so long as one can express freely one's ideas it is always possible to defend, in this manner, the other liberties of the individual. But in order to spread ideas by any of the modern media many requisites are needed.
If this is done through the press, by means of books, radio, television or any other form, some kind of investment must be made. In the case of books or newspapers, a building is needed, some kind of machinery, various raw materials, money to pay the wages of the people who work for the newspapers or publishers, etc. In the case of radio and television, many investments must also be made in machinery, buildings, raw materials, wages, etc. If independent thinking is to be transmitted to the people through the aforementioned media, it is impossible for these investments to be owned by the government or the state.
If the latter is the case, the kind of thinking that is transmitted is always that of those who govern. In short, to preserve independent thinking private property is fundamental.
Meaning of "Mauerbau" in the German dictionary
It is necessary that all the investments required for free expression be privately owned, otherwise the means to express ideas will be used only to express the thinking of the bureaucrats in the government. If the aforementioned is the case when analyzing freedom of expression, it becomes even clearer when we consider the case of every other individual liberty. We cannot imagine freedom to contract, freedom to associate, freedom to work and even religious freedom without private property. When putting into practice any of these special kinds of individual liberties some property must be owned.
In the case of a contract, where somebody is selling his services or his work, he is the owner of those services and that work, and the salary obtained in exchange for same also becomes the property of the person who has earned it. In the case of religious freedom it has been denied that private property is required to put it into practice.
However, if apparently one does not need to own anything to pray, one must be the owner of the time dedicated to prayer.
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And if we wish to pray in the way people generally pray, then somebody must own the land where the church is to be built, and many expenses must be paid in order to maintain this religious culture. Needless to say, if the land, buildings and money dedicated to religious culture is not owned privately—the state being the owner—the religion that will be practiced will be the religion of the state, and this is not religious freedom. As the government has no resources other than the taxes collected, this means that many tax-payers who profess a religion different to that of the government will be paying for the culture of a religion that is not their own.
Always governments tend to expand their power at the expense of individual freedom. In fact, it goes without saying that corruption bred by power appears when power is outbounded. But extralimitation of power is something inherent to all kinds of government at every moment of history.
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But it is only with many reservations that the latter formulation can be considered acceptable, because the customary opposition between individual and collectivity, between individualistic and collective ideas and aims, or even between individualistic and universalistic science, is an empty shibboleth. Governments tolerate private property when they are compelled to do so, but they do not acknowledge it voluntarily in recognition of its necessity.
Even liberal politicians on gaining power, have usually relegated their liberal principles more or less to the background. The tendency to impose oppressive restraints on private property, to abuse political power, and to refuse to respect or recognize any free sphere outside or beyond the dominion of the state is too deeply ingrained in the mentality of those who control the governmental apparatus of compulsion and coercion for them ever to be able to resist it voluntarily.
Governments must be forced into adopting liberalism by the power of the unanimous opinion of the people; that they Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] could voluntarily become liberal is not to be expected. It is easy to understand what would constrain rulers to recognize the property rights of their subjects in a society composed exclusively of farmers all of whom were equally rich. In such a social order, every attempt to abridge the right to property would immediately meet with the resistance of a united front of all subjects against the government and thus bring about the latter's fall.
The situation is essentially different, however, in a society in which there is not only agricultural but also industrial production, and especially where there are big business enterprises involving large-scale investments in industry, mining and trade. In such a society it is quite possible for those in control of the government to take action against private property.
In fact, politically there is nothing more advantageous for a government than an attack on property rights, for it is always an easy matter to incite the masses against the owners of land and capital. The Second Empire of Louis Napoleon was not the only regime to be founded on the principle of Ceasarism.
Translation of «Mauerbau» into 25 languages
The Prussian authoritarian state of the Hohenzollerns also took up the idea, introduced by Lassalle into German politics during the Prussian constitutional struggle, of winning the masses of workers to the battle against the liberal bourgeoisie by means of a policy of etatism and interventionism. In these troubled times, when most of the people are dissatisfied, and many are demanding changes, it is more important than ever to find the real fundamental root of the present decay of civilization. Professor Ludwig von Mises has been preaching for a long time the right ideas for a prosperous social order.
He has been forecasting all the troubles that mankind is experiencing nowadays. He has been explaining clearly the dangers of government intervention, of nationalism, of protectionism, of inflation, of socialism and collectivism, all of which policies deteriorate private property and are contrary to the classical liberal capitalism which made possible the greatness of Western civilization.