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The Case for Freedom

January 22, 2011
Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

This is the introduction to the new Mises Institute edition of Ludwig von Mises’s Liberalism.

Any political philosophy must address itself to a central question: under what conditions is the initiation of violence to be considered legitimate? One philosophy may endorse such violence on behalf of the interests of a majority racial group, as with the National Socialists of Germany. Another may endorse it on behalf of a particular economic class, as with the Bolsheviks of Soviet Russia. Still another may prefer to avoid a doctrinaire position one way or another, leaving it to the good judgment of those who administer the state to decide when the common good demands the initiation of violence and when it does not. This is the stance of the social democracies.

The liberal sets a very high threshold for the initiation of violence. Beyond the minimal taxation necessary to maintain legal and defense services – and some liberals shrink even from this – he denies to the state the power to initiate violence and seeks only peaceful remedies to perceived social ills. He opposes violence for the sake of redistributing wealth, of enriching influential pressure groups, or trying to improve man’s moral condition. Civilized people, says the liberal, interact with each other not according to the law of the jungle, but by means of reason and discussion. Man is not to be made good by means of the prison guard and the hangman; should they be necessary to make him good, his moral condition is already beyond salvage. As Ludwig von Mises puts it in this seminal book, modern man “must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.”

And now… the rest of the story. …..

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