Saturday, April 5, 2014

Growth of Interventionist State through Bureaucratic Management

After finishing my review of "The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality," my next reading target is "Bureaucracy." In this book, Ludwig von Mises investigated his subject where he studied the growth of bureaucratic agencies not only in the US, but also the experiences of France, Germany, and Russia. For Mises, the conflict between socialism and capitalism can be seen from different angles, and the most expedient among them is the investigation of bureaucratic expansion. Remember that when Mises wrote this book, the world was at war; it was in 1944. He described that time that socialism was advancing, and only America was still free. He even claimed that the outcome of the decision of the American people will determine the future of humanity. 

The burning issue during Mises' time was the choice between "freedom, private initiative, and individual responsibility" (p. iii) on the one hand, and a coercive and interventionist state on the other hand. Or to put it another way, the choice is between "authoritarian totalitarianism" or "individualism and democracy" (ibid.). He asked, "Should a citizen be deprive of his most precious privilege to choose means and ends and to shape his own life?" (ibid.).

After reading the Preface of the book, a series of questions emerges in my mind. When Mises said that "America alone is still free to choose" (ibid.), did he mean that the entire Europe that time was already under socialism? How about today? In what way socialism is advancing at present? If it is really true that socialism can advance through bureaucratic agencies, how come many people are not worried in our time in the expansion of these agencies? Is this not an indication that the statement uttered by an eminent British statesman, Sir William Harcourt more than a century ago that 'We are all socialists now" has been fulfilled in our time? How about the situation of the US today? Was Mises' description that the US "compared with the rest of the world, only superficially afflicted" still true even at present? 

I want to keep these questions in mind as I journey through the book. 

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