Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism, and the Division of Labor

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If men
were like ants, there would be no interest in human freedom.
If individual men, like ants, were uniform, interchangeable,
devoid of specific personality traits of their own, then who
would care whether they were free or not? Who, indeed, would
care if they lived or died? The glory of the human race is
the uniqueness of each individual, the fact that every person,
though similar in many ways to others, possesses a completely
individuated personality of his own.

It is
the fact of each person’s uniqueness – the fact that
no two people can be wholly interchangeable – that makes
each and every man irreplaceable and that makes us care whether
he lives or dies, whether he is happy or oppressed. And, finally,
it is the fact that these unique personalities need freedom
for their full development that constitutes one of the major
arguments for a free society.

a world exists somewhere where intelligent beings are fully
formed in some sort of externally determined cages, with no
need for internal learning or choices by the individual beings
themselves. But man is necessarily in a different situation.
Individual human beings are not born or fashioned with fully
formed knowledge, values, goals, or personalities; they must
each form their own values and goals, develop their personalities,
and learn about themselves and the world around them. Every
man must have freedom, must have the scope to form, test,
and act upon his own choices, for any sort of development
of his own personality to take place. He must, in short, be
free in order that he may be fully human.

In a
sense, even the most frozen and totalitarian civilizations
and societies have allowed at least a modicum of scope for
individual choice and development. Even the most monolithic
of despotisms have had to allow at least a bit of “space”
for freedom of choice, if only within the interstices of societal
rules. The freer the society, of course, the less has been
the interference with individual actions, and the greater
the scope for the development of each individual. The freer
the society, then, the greater will be the variety and the
diversity among men, for the more fully developed will be
every man’s uniquely individual personality.

On the
other hand, the more despotic the society, the more restrictions
on the freedom of the individual, the more uniformity there
will be among men and the less the diversity, and the less
developed will be the unique personality of each and every
man. In a profound sense, then, a despotic society prevents
its members from being fully human.[1]

If freedom
is a necessary condition for the full development of the individual,
it is by no means the only requirement. Society itself must
be sufficiently developed. No one, for example, can become
a creative physicist on a desert island or in a primitive
society. For, as an economy grows, the range of choice open
to the producer and to the consumer proceeds to multiply greatly.[2]
Furthermore, only a society with a standard of living considerably
higher than subsistence can afford to devote much of its resources
to improving knowledge and to developing a myriad of goods
and services above the level of brute subsistence. But there
is another reason that full development of the creative powers
of each individual cannot occur in a primitive or undeveloped
society, and that is the necessity for a wide-ranging division
of labor.

No one
can fully develop his powers in any direction without engaging
in specialization. The primitive tribesman or peasant,
bound to an endless round of different tasks in order to maintain
himself, could have no time or resources available to pursue
any particular interest to the full. He had no room to specialize,
to develop whatever field he was best at or in which he was
most interested. Two hundred years ago, Adam Smith pointed
out that the developing division of labor is a key to the
advance of any economy above the most primitive level. A necessary
condition for any sort of developed economy, the division
of labor is also requisite to the development of any sort
of civilized society. The philosopher, the scientist, the
builder, the merchant – none could develop these skills
or functions if he had had no scope for specialization. Furthermore,
no individual who does not live in a society enjoying a wide
range of division of labor can possibly employ his powers
to the fullest. He cannot concentrate his powers in a field
or discipline and advance that discipline and his own mental
faculties. Without the opportunity to specialize in whatever
he can do best, no person can develop his powers to the full;
no man, then, could be fully human.

a continuing and advancing division of labor is needed for
a developed economy and society, the extent of such development
at any given time limits the degree of specialization that
any given economy can have. There is, therefore, no room for
a physicist or a computer engineer on a primitive island;
these skills would be premature within the context of that
existing economy. As Adam Smith put it, “the division of labor
is limited by the extent of the market.” Economic and social
development is therefore a mutually reinforcing process: the
development of the market permits a wider division of labor,
which in turn enables of further extension of the market.[3]

If the
scope of the market and the extent of the division of labor
are mutually reinforcing, so too are the division of labor
and the diversity of individual interests and abilities among
men. For just as an ever-greater division of labor is needed
to give full scope to the abilities and powers of each individual,
so does the existence of that very division depend upon the
innate diversity of men. For there would be no scope at all
for a division of labor if every person were uniform and interchangeable.
(A further condition of the emergence of a division of labor
is the variety of natural resources; specific land areas on
the earth are also not interchangeable.) Furthermore, it soon
became evident in the history of man that the market economy
based on a division of labor was profoundly cooperative,
and that such division enormously multiplied the productivity
and hence the wealth of every person participating in the
society. The economist Ludwig von Mises put the matter very

Historically division of labor originates in two facts
of nature: the inequality of human abilities and the variety
of the external conditions of human life on the earth.
These two facts are really one: the diversity of Nature,
which does not repeat itself but creates the universe
in infinite, inexhaustible variety….

two conditions … are indeed such as almost to force
the division of labor on mankind. Old and young, men and
women cooperate by making appropriate use of their various
abilities. Here also is the germ of the geographical division
of labor; man goes to the hunt and woman to the spring
to fetch water. Had the strength and abilities of all
individuals and the external conditions of production
been everywhere equal the idea of division of labor could
never have arisen … No social life could have arisen
among men of equal natural capacity in a world which was
geographically uniform….

labor has been divided, the division itself exercises
a differentiating influence. The fact that labor is divided
makes possible further cultivation of individual talent
and thus cooperation becomes more and more productive.
Through cooperation men are able to achieve what would
have been beyond them as individuals….

greater productivity of work under the division of labor
is a unifying influence. It leads men to regard each other
as comrades in a joint struggle for welfare, rather than
as competitors in a struggle for existence.[4]

then, is needed for the development of the individual, and
such development also depends upon the extent of the division
of labor and the height of the standard of living. The developed
economy makes room for, and encourages, an enormously greater
specialization and flowering of the powers of the individual
than can a primitive economy, and the greater the degree of
such development, the greater the scope for each individual.

If freedom
and the growth of the market are each important for the development
of each individual and, therefore, to the flowering of diversity
and individual differences, then so is there a casual connection
between freedom and economic growth. For it is precisely freedom,
the absence or limitation of interpersonal restrictions or
interference, that sets the stage for economic growth and
hence of the market economy and the developed division of

The Industrial
Revolution and the corollary and consequent economic growth
of the West were a product of its relative freedom for enterprise,
for invention and innovation, for mobility and the advancement
of labor. Compared to societies in other times and places,
18th- and 19th-century Western Europe and the United States
were marked by a far greater social and economic freedom –
a freedom to move, invest, work, and produce – secure
from much harassment and interference by government. Compared
to the role of government elsewhere, its role in these centuries
in the West was remarkably minimal.[5]

By allowing
full scope for investment, mobility, the division of labor,
creativity, and entrepreneurship, the free economy thereby
creates the conditions for rapid economic development. It
is freedom and the free market, as Adam Smith well pointed
out, that develop the “wealth of nations.” Thus, freedom leads
to economic development, and both of these conditions in turn
multiply individual development and the unfolding of the powers
of the individual man. In two crucial ways, then, freedom
is the root; only the free man can be fully individuated and,
therefore, can be fully human.

If freedom
leads to a widening division of labor, and the full scope
of individual development, it leads also to a growing population.
For just as the division of labor is limited by the extent
of the market, so is total population limited by total production.
One of the striking facts about the Industrial Revolution
has been not only a great rise in the standard of living for
everyone, but also the viability of such ample living standards
for an enormously larger population. The land area of North
America was able to support only a million or so Indians 500
years ago, and that at a barely subsistence level. Even if
we wished to eliminate the division of labor, we could not
do so without literally wiping out the vast majority of the
current world population.


We conclude
that freedom and its concomitant, the widening division of
labor, are vital for the flowering of each individual, as
well as the literal survival of the vast bulk of the world’s
population. It must give us great concern, then, that over
the past two centuries mighty social movements have sprung
up which have been dedicated, at their heart, to the stamping
out of all human differences, of all individuality.

has become apparent in recent years, for example, that the
heart of the complex social philosophy of Marxism does not
lie, as it seemed to in the 1930s and ’40s, in Marxian economic
doctrines: in the labor theory of value, in the familiar proposal
for socialist state ownership of the means of production,
and in the central planning of the economy and society. The
economic theories and programs of Marxism are, to use a Marxian
term, merely the elaborate “superstructure” erected on the
inner core of Marxian aspiration. Consequently, many Marxists
have, in recent decades, been willing to abandon the labor
theory of value and even centralized socialist planning, as
the Marxian economic theory has been increasingly abandoned
and the practice of socialist planning shown to be unworkable.
Similarly, the Marxists of the “New Left” in the United States
and abroad have been willing to jettison socialist economic
theory and practice.

they have not been willing to abandon is the philosophic
heart of the Marxian ideal – not socialism or socialist
planning, concerned anyway with what is supposed to be a temporary
“stage” of development, but communism itself. It
is the communist ideal, the ultimate goal of Marxism, that
excites the contemporary Marxist, that engages his most fervent
passions. The New Left Marxist has no use for Soviet Russia
because the Soviets have clearly relegated the communist ideal
to the remotest possible future. The New Leftist admires Che
Guevara, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-Tung not simply because of
their role as revolutionaries and guerrilla leaders, but more
because of their repeated attempts to leap into communism
as rapidly as possible.[6]

Marx was vague and cloudy in describing the communist ideal,
let alone the specific path for attaining it. But one essential
feature is the eradication of the division of labor. Contrary
to current belief, Marx’s now popular concept of “alienation”
had little to do with a psychological sense of apartness or
discontent. The heart of the concept was the individual’s
“alienation” from the product of labor. A worker, for example,
works in a steel mill. Obviously, he himself will consume
little or none of the steel he produces; he earns the value
of his product in the shape of a money-commodity, and then
he happily uses that money to buy whatever he chooses from
the products of other people. Thus, A produces steel,
B eggs, C shoes, etc., and then each exchanges
them for products of the others through the use of money.
To Marx, this phenomenon of the market and the division of
labor was a radical evil, for it meant that no one consumed
any of his own product. The steelworker thus became
“alienated” from his steel, the shoemaker from his shoes,

The proper
response to this “problem,” it seems to me, is, “So what?”
Why should anyone care about this sort of “alienation”? Surely
the farmer, shoemaker, and steelworker are very happy to sell
their product and exchange it for whatever products they desire;
deprive them of this “alienation” and they would be most unhappy,
as well as dying from starvation. For if the farmer were not
allowed to produce more wheat or eggs than he himself consumes,
or the shoemaker more shoes than he can wear, or the steelworker
more steel than he can use, it is clear that the great bulk
of the population would rapidly starve and the rest be reduced
to a primitive subsistence, with life “nasty, brutish, and
short.”[7] But to Marx this
condition was the evil result of individualism and capitalism
and had to be eradicated.

Marx was completely ignorant of the fact that each participant
in the division of labor cooperates through the market economy,
exchanging for each other’s products and increasing the productivity
and living standards of everyone. To Marx, any differences
between men and, therefore, any specialization in the division
of labor, is a “contradiction,” and the communist goal is
to replace that “contradiction” with harmony among all. This
means that to the Marxist any individual differences, any
diversity among men, are “contradictions” to be stamped out
and replaced by the uniformity of the antheap.

Engels maintained that the emergence of the division of labor
shattered the alleged classless harmony and uniformity of
primitive society, and was responsible for the cleavage of
society into separate and conflicting classes. Hence, for
Marx and Engels, the division of labor must be eradicated
in order to abolish class conflict and to usher in the ideal
harmony of the “classless society,” the society of total uniformity.[8]

Marx foresees his communist ideal only “after the enslaving
subordination of individuals under division of labor, and
therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical
labor, has vanished.”[9]
To Marx, the ideal communist society is one where, as Professor
Gray puts it, “everyone must do everything.” According to
Marx in The German Ideology,

communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere
of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch
he wishes, society regulates the general production and
thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and
another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the
afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after
dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter,
fisherman, shepherd or critic.[10]

And the
Marxist, August Bebel, consistently applied this dilettantish
notion to the role of women:

one moment a practical worker in some industry she is
in the next hour educator, teacher, nurse; in the third
part of the day she exercises some art or cultivates a
science; and in the fourth part she fulfills some administrative

The concept
of the commune in socialist thought takes on its
central importance precisely as a means of eradicating individual
differences. It is not just that the commune owns all the
means of production among its members. Crucial to the communal
ideal is that every man takes on every function, either all
at once or in rapid rotation. Obviously, the commune has to
subsist on no more than a primitive level, with only a few
common tasks, for this ideal to be achieved. Hence the New
Left commune, where every person is supposed to take turns
equally at every task; again, specialization is eradicated,
and no one can develop his powers to the full. Hence the current
admiration for Cuba, which has attempted to stress “moral”
rather than economic incentives in production, and which has
established communes on the Isle of Pines. Hence the admiration
of Mao, who has attempted to establish uniform urban and rural
communes, and who recently sent several million students into
permanent exile into the frontier agricultural areas, in order
to eliminate the “contradiction between intellectual and physical

at the heart of the split between Russia and China is Russia’s
virtual abandonment of the communist ideal in the face of
China’s “fundamentalist” devotion to the original creed. The
shared devotion to the commune also accounts for the similarities
between the New Left, the utopian socialists of the 19th century,[13]
and the communist anarchists, a wing of anarchism that has
always shared the communal ideal with the Marxists.[14]

The communist
would deny that his ideal society would suppress the personality
of every man. On the contrary, freed from the confines of
the division of labor, each person would fully develop all
of his powers in every direction. Every man would be fully
rounded in all spheres of life and work. As Engels put it
in his Anti-Dühring, communism would give “each
individual the opportunity to develop and exercise all his
faculties, physical and mental, in all directions…”[15]
And Lenin wrote in 1920 of the abolition of “the division
of labour among people, to educate and school people, give
them all-round development and an all-round training,
so that they are able to do everything. Communism
is advancing and must advance towards that goal, and will
reach it…”[16]

absurd ideal – of the man “able to do everything” –
is only viable if (a) everyone does everything very badly,
or (b) there are only a very few things to do, or (c) everyone
is miraculously transformed into a superman. Professor Mises
aptly notes that the ideal communist man is the dilettante,
the man who knows a little of everything and does nothing
well. For how can he develop any of his powers and
faculties if he is prevented from developing any one of them
to any sustained extent? As Mises says of Bebel’s utopia,

and science are relegated to leisure hours. In this way,
thinks Bebel, the society of the future “will possess
scientists and artists of all kinds in countless numbers.”
These, according to their several inclinations, will pursue
their studies and their arts in their spare time…. All
mental work he regards as mere dilettantism…. But nevertheless
we must inquire whether under these conditions the mind
would be able to create that freedom without which it
cannot exist.

all artistic and scientific work which demands time, travel,
technical education and great material expenditure, would
be quite out of the question.[17]

person’s time and energy on the earth are necessarily limited;
hence, in order to develop any of his faculties to
the full, he must specialize and concentrate on some rather
than others. As Gray writes,

each individual should have the opportunity of developing
all his faculties, physical and mental,
in all directions, is a dream which will cheer
the vision only of the simple-minded, oblivious of the
restrictions imposed by the narrow limits of human life.
For life is a series of acts of choice, and each choice
is at the same time a renunciation….

the inhabitant of Engels’ future fairyland will have to
decide sooner or later whether he wishes to be Archbishop
of Canterbury or First Sea Lord, whether he should seek
to excel as a violinist or as a pugilist, whether he should
elect to know all about Chinese literature or about the
hidden pages in the life of the mackerel.[18]

Of course,
the only way to resolve this dilemma is to fantasize that
the New Communist Man will be a superman. The Marxist, Karl
Kautsky, asserted that in the future society “a new type of
man will arise … a superman … an exalted man.” Leon Trotsky
prophesied that under communism.

… man will become incomparably stronger, wiser, finer.
His body more harmonious, his movements more rhythmical,
his voice more musical … The human average will rise
to the level of an Aristotle, a Goethe, a Marx. Above
these other heights new peaks will arise.[19]

In recent
years, communists have intensified their efforts to end the
division of labor and reduce all individuals to uniformity.
Fidel Castro’s attempts to “build Communism” in the Isle of
Pines, and Mao Tse-Tung’s Cultural Revolution, have been echoed
in miniature by the American New Left in numerous attempts
to form hippies communes and to create organizational “collectives”
in which everyone does everything without benefit of specialization.[20]

In contrast,
Yugoslavia has been the quiet despair of the communist movement
by moving rapidly in the opposite direction – toward
every-increasing freedom, individuality, and free-market operations
– and has proved influential in leading the other “communist”
countries of Eastern Europe (notably, Hungary and Czechoslovakia)
in the same direction.[21]


One way
of gauging the extent of “harmonious” development of all of
the individual’s powers in the absence of specialization is
to consider what actually happened during primitive or preindustrial
eras. And, indeed, many socialists and other opponents of
the Industrial Revolution exalt the primitive and preindustrial
periods as a golden age of harmony, community, and social
belonging – a peaceful and happy society destroyed by
the development of individualism, the Industrial Revolution,
and the market economy.

In their
exaltation of the primitive and the preindustrial, the socialists
were perfectly anticipated by the reactionaries of the Romantic
movement, those men who longed to roll back the tide of progress,
individualism, and industry, and return to the supposed golden
age of the preindustrial era.

The New
Left, in particular, also emphasizes a condemnation of technology
and the division of labor, as well as a desire to “return
to the earth” and an exaltation of the commune and the “tribe.”
As John W. Aldridge perceptively points out, the current New
Left virtually constitutes a generational tribe that exhibits
all the characteristics of a uniform and interchangeable herd,
with little or no individuality among its members.[22]

the early 19th-century German reactionary, Adam Müller,
denounced the

vicious tendency to divide labor in all branches of private
industry… [The] division of labor in large cities or
industrial or mining provinces cuts up man, the completely
free man, into wheels, rollers, spokes, shafts, etc.,
forces on him an utterly one-sided scope in the already
one-sided field of the provisioning of one single want…[23]

The leading
French conservatives of the early 19th century, Bonald and
de Maistre, who idealized the feudal order, denounced the
disruption by individualism of the preexisting social order
and social cohesion.[24]
The contemporary French reactionary, Jacques Ellul, in The
Technological Society, a book much in favor on the New
Left, condemns “our dehumanized factories, our unsatisfied
senses … our estrangement from nature.” In the Middle Ages,
in contrast, claims Ellul, “Man sought open spaces … the
possibility of moving about … of not constantly colliding
with other people.”[25]
In the meanwhile, on the socialist side, the economic historian
Karl Polanyi‘s influential
The Great Transformation makes this thesis of the
disruption of a previous social harmony by individualism,
the market economy, and the division of labor the central
theme of the book.

For its
part, the worship of the primitive is a logical extension
of the worship of the preindustrial. This worship by modern
sophisticated intellectuals ranges from Rousseau’s “noble
savage” and the lionizing of that creature by the Romantic
movement, all the way to the adoration of the Black Panthers
by white intellectuals.[26]
Whatever other pathology the worship of the primitive reflects,
a basic part of it is a deep-seated hatred of individual diversity.
Obviously, the more primitive and the less civilized a society,
the less diverse and individuated it can be.[27]
Also part of this primitivism reflects a hatred for the intellect
and its works, since the flowering of reason and intellection
leads to diversity and inequality of individual achievement.

For the
individual to advance and develop, reason and the intellect
must be active, it must embody the individual’s mind
working upon and transforming the materials of reality. From
the time of Aristotle, the classical philosophy presented
man as only fulfilling himself, his nature, and his personality
through purposive action upon the world. It is from such rational
and purposive action that the works of civilization have developed.
In contrast, the Romantic movement has always exalted the
passivity of the child who, necessarily ignorant and immature,
only reacts passively to his environment rather than acts
to change it. This tendency to exalt passivity and the young,
and to denigrate intellect, has reached its present embodiment
in the New Left, which worships both youth per se
and a passive attitude of ignorant and purposeless spontaneity.
The passivity of the New Left, its wish to live simply and
in “harmony” with “the earth” and the alleged rhythms of nature,
harks back completely to the Rousseauist Romantic movement.
Like the Romantic movement, it is a conscious rejection of
civilization and differentiated men on behalf of the primitive,
the ignorant, the herd-like “tribe.”[28]

If reason,
purpose, and action are to be spurned, then what replaces
them in the Romantic pantheon are unanalyzed, spontaneous
“feelings.” And since the range of feelings is relatively
small compared to intellectual achievements, and in any case
is not objectively known to another person, the emphasis on
feelings is another way to iron out diversity and inequality
among individuals.

Babbitt, a keen critic of Romanticism, wrote about the Romantic

whole movement is filled with the praise of ignorance
and of those who still enjoy its inappreciable advantages
– the savage, the peasant and above all the child.
The Rousseauist may indeed be said to have discovered
the poetry of childhood… but at what would seem at times
a rather heavy sacrifice of rationality. Rather than consent
to have the bloom taken off things by analysis one should,
as Coleridge tells us, sink back to the devout
state of childlike wonder. However, to grow ethically
is not to sink back but to struggle painfully forward.
To affirm the contrary is to proclaim one’s inability
to mature … [The Romantic] is ready to assert that what
comes to the child spontaneously is superior to the deliberate
moral effort of the mature man. The speeches of all the
sages are, according to Maeterlinck, outweighed by the
unconscious wisdom of the passing child.[29]

perceptive critique of Romanticism and primitivism was written
by Ludwig von Mises. He notes that “the whole tribe of romantics”
have denounced specialization and the division of labor. “For
them the man of the past who developed his powers ‘harmoniously’
is the ideal: an ideal which alas no longer inspires our degenerate
age. They recommend retrogression in the division of labor…”
with the socialists surpassing their fellow Romantics in this
regard.[30] But are primitives
or preindustrial men privileged to develop themselves freely
and harmoniously? Mises answers:

is futile to look for the harmoniously developed man at
the outset of economic evolution. The almost self-sufficient
economic subject as we know him in the solitary peasant
of remote valleys shows none of that noble, harmonious
development of body, mind, and feeling which the romantics
ascribe to him. Civilization is a product of leisure and
the peace of mind that only the division of labor can
make possible. Nothing is more false than to assume that
man first appeared in history with an independent individuality
and that only during the evolution [of society]… did
he lose … his spiritual independence. All history, evidence
and observation of the lives of primitive peoples is directly
contrary to this view. Primitive man lacks all individuality
in our sense. Two South Sea Islanders resemble each other
far more closely than two twentieth-century Londoners.
Personality was not bestowed upon man at the outset. It
has been acquired in the course of evolution of society.[31]

Or we
may note Charles Silberman’s critique of Jacques Ellul’s rhapsodies
on the “traditional rhythms of life and nature” lived by preindustrial
man, as compared to “dehumanized factories … our estrangement
from nature.” Silberman asks:

But with what shall we contrast this dehumanized world?
The beautiful, harmonious life being lived by, say, the
Chinese or Vietnamese peasant woman, who works in the
fields close to nature, for twelve hours a day –
roughly the conditions under which the great bulk of women
(and men) have worked … through all of human history?
For this is the condition that Ellul idealizes.

as for Ellul’s paean to the Middle Ages as being mobile, spacious,
and uncrowded:

would have been startling news to the medieval peasant,
who lived with his wife and children, other relatives,
and probably animals as well in a one-room thatched cottage.
And even for the nobility, was there really more possibility
of “moving about” in the Middle Ages, when travel was
by foot or hoof, than today, when steelworkers spend sabbaticals
in Europe?[32]

savage is supposed not only to be “noble” but also supremely
happy. From the Rousseauans to what Erich Fromm has called
“the infantile Paradise” of Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse,
the Romantics have extolled the happiness yielded by the spontaneous
and the childlike. To Aristotle and the classic philosophers,
happiness was acting in accordance with man’s unique
and rational nature. To Marcuse, any purposive, rational action
is by definition “repressive,” to which he contrasts the “liberated”
state of spontaneous play. Aside from the universal destitution
that the proposed abolition of work would bring, the result
would be a profound unhappiness, for no individual
would be able to fulfill himself, his individuality would
largely disappear, for in a world of “polymorphous” play everyone
would be virtually alike.

If we
consider the supposed happiness of primitive man, we must
also consider that his life was, in the famous phrase of Hobbes,
“nasty, brutish, and short.” There were few medical aids against
disease; there were none against famine, for in a world cut
off from interregional markets and barely above subsistence
any check to the local food supply will decimate the population.
Fulfilling the dreams of Romantics, the primitive tribe is
a passive creature of its given environment and has no means
for acting to overcome and transform it. Hence, when the local
food supply within an area is depleted, the “happy-go-lucky”
tribe dies en masse.

we must realize that the primitive faces a world which he
cannot understand, since he has not engaged in much of a rational,
scientific inquiry into its workings. We know what
a thunderstorm is, and therefore take rational measures against
it; but the savage does not know, and therefore surmises that
the God of Thunder is displeased with him and must be propitiated
with sacrifices and votive offerings. Since the savage has
only a limited concept of a world knit together by natural
law (a concept which employs reason and science), he believes
that the world is governed by a host of capricious spirits
and demons, each of which can only be propitiated by ritual
or magic, and by a priest-craft of witch doctors who specialize
in their propitiation.[33]
The renaissance of astrology and similar mystic creeds on
the New Left marks a reversion to such primitive forms of
magic. So fearful is the savage, so bound is he by irrational
taboo and by the custom of his tribe, that he cannot develop
his individuality.

If tribal
custom crippled and repressed the development of each individual,
then so too did the various caste systems and networks of
restriction and coercion in preindustrial societies that forced
everyone to follow the hereditary footsteps of his father’s
occupation. Each child knew from birth that he was doomed
to tread where his ancestors had gone before him, regardless
of ability or inclination to the contrary. The “social harmony,”
the “sense of belonging,” supplied by mercantilism, by the
guilds, or by the caste system, provided such contentment
that its members left the throes of the system when given
an opportunity. Given the freedom to choose, the tribesmen
abandon the bosom of their tribe to come to the freer, “atomistic”
cities looking for jobs and opportunity. It is curious, in
fact, that those Romantics who yearn to restore the mythical
golden age of caste and status refuse to allow each individual
the freedom to choose between market on the one hand, or caste
and tribal commune on the other. Invariably, the new golden
age has to be imposed by coercion.

Is it,
indeed, a coincidence that the natives of undeveloped countries,
when given a chance, invariably abandon their “folk culture”
on behalf of Western ways, living standards, and “Coca-Colaization”?
Within a few years, for example, the people of Japan were
delighted to abandon their centuries-old traditional culture
and folkways, and turn to the material achievements and market
economy of the West. Primitive tribes, too, given a chance,
are eager to differentiate and develop a market economy, to
shed their stagnant “harmony” and replace their magic by knowledge
of discovered law. The eminent anthropologist, Branislaw Malinowski,
pointed out that primitives use magic only to cover those
areas of nature of which they are ignorant; in those areas
where they have come to understand the natural processes at
work, magic is, quite sensibly, not employed.[34]

A particularly
striking example of the eager development of a pervasive market
economy among primitive tribesmen is the largely unheralded
case of West Africa.[35]
And Bernard Siegel has pointed out that when, as among the
Penajachel of Guatemala, a primitive society becomes large
and technologically and societally complex, a market economy
inevitably accompanies this growth, replete with specialization,
competition, cash purchases, demand and supply, prices and
costs, etc.[36]

is thus ample evidence that even primitive tribesmen themselves
are not fond of their primitivism and take the earliest opportunity
to escape from it; the main stronghold of love for primitivism
seems to rest among the decidedly nonprimitive Romantic intellectuals.

primitivistic institution that has been hailed by many social
scientists is the system of the “extended family,” a harmony
and status supposedly ruptured by the individualistic “nuclear
family” of the modern West. Yet the extended family system
has been responsible for crippling the creative and productive
individual as well as repressing economic development. Thus,
West African development has been impeded by the extended
family concept that, if one man prospers, he is duty bound
to share this bounty with a host of relatives, thus draining
off the reward for his productivity and crippling his incentive
to succeed, while encouraging the relatives to live idly on
the family dole. And neither do the productive members of
the tribe seem very happy about this supposedly harmonious
societal bond. Professor Bauer points out that

many admit in private discussion that they dread these
extensive obligations … The fear of the obligations
of the family system is partly responsible for the widespread
use of textiles and trinkets as outlets for savings, in
preference to more productive forms of investment which
are more likely to attract the attention of relatives.

And many
Africans distrust banks, “fearing that they may disclose the
size of their accounts to members of their families. They,
therefore, prefer to keep their savings under the fireplace
or buried in the ground.”[37]

In fact,
the primitive community, far from being happy, harmonious,
and idyllic, is much more likely to be ridden by mutual suspicion
and envy of the more successful or better favored, an envy
so pervasive as to cripple, by the fear of its presence, all
personal or general economic development. The German sociologist
Helmut Schoeck, in his important recent work on Envy,
cites numerous studies of this pervasive crippling effect.
Thus the anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn found among the Navaho
the absence of any concept of “personal success” or “personal
achievement”; and such success was automatically attributed
to exploitation of others, and, therefore, the more prosperous
Navaho Indian feels himself under constant social pressure
to give his money away. Allan Holmberg found that the Siriono
Indian of Bolivia eats alone at night because, if he eats
by day, a crowd gathers around him to stare in envious hatred.
The result among the Siriono is that, in reaction to this
pervasive pressure, no one will voluntarily share food with
anybody. Sol Tax found that envy and fear of envy in “a small
community where all neighbors watch and where all are neighbors”
accounted for the unprogressiveness, the slowness of change
toward a productive economy among the Indians of Guatemala.
And when a tribe of Pueblo Indians showed the beginnings of
specialization and the division of labor, the envy of their
fellow tribesmen impelled them to take measures to end this
process, including physical destruction of the property of
those who seemed in any way better off than their fellows.

Lewis discovered an extremely pervasive fear of the envy of
others in a Mexican Indian village, a fear producing intense
secretiveness. Wrote Lewis:

man who speaks little, keeps his affairs to himself, and
maintains some distance between himself and others has
less chance of creating enemies or of being criticized
or envied. A man does not generally discuss his plans
to buy or sell or take a trip.[38]

Schoeck comments:

it is difficult to envisage what it means for the economic
and technical development of a community when, almost
automatically and as a matter of principle, the future
dimension is banned from human intercourse and conversation,
when it cannot even be discussed. Ubiquitous envy, fear
of it and those who harbor it, cuts off such people from
any kind of communal action directed towards the future
… All striving, all preparation and planning for the
future can be undertaken only by socially fragmented,
secretive beings.[39]

in this Mexican village no one will warn or tell anyone else
of imminent danger to the other’s property; there is no sense
of human social solidarity whatsoever.

the Indians of Aritama in Colombia, the Reichel-Dolmatoffs

individual lives in constant fear of the magical aggression
of others, and the general social atmosphere in the village
is one of mutual suspicion, of latent danger, and hidden
hostility, which pervade every aspect of life. The most
immediate reason for magical aggression is envy. Anything
that might be interpreted as a personal advantage over
others is envied: good health, economic assets, good physical
appearance, popularity, a harmonious family life, a new
dress. All these and other aspects imply prestige, and
with it power and authority over others. Aggressive magic
is, therefore, intended to prevent or to destroy this
power and to act as a leveling force.[40]

The Reichel-Dolmatoffs
also noted that if one member of a group in Aritama should
work faster or better than his fellows, his place of work
is marked with a cross before he arrives the next morning,
and his envious colleagues pray to God to make this more able
worker slow and tired.

Watson and Samora found that the major reason for the failure
of a group of lower-class Spanish-speaking citizens of a mountain
township in southern Colorado to rise into parity with the
upper-class Anglo community, was the bitter envy of the Spanish
group toward any of their number who managed to rise upward.
Anyone who works his way upward is regarded as a man “who
has sold himself to the Anglos,” “who has climbed on the backs
of his people.”[41]

The anthropologist
Eric Wolf has even coined the term “institutionalized envy”
to describe such pervasive institutions, including the practice
and fear of black magic in these primitive societies.[42]
Schoeck notes:

envy … or the ubiquitous fear of it, means that
there is little possibility of individual economic advancement
and no contact with the outside world through which the
community might hope to progress. No one dares to show
anything that might lead people to think he was better
off. Innovations are unlikely. Agricultural methods remain
traditional and primitive, to the detriment of the whole
village, because every deviation from previous practice
comes up against the limitations set by envy.[43]

And Schoeck
aptly concludes:

is nothing to be seen here of the close community which
allegedly exists among primitive peoples in pre-affluent
times – the poorer, it is held, the greater the sense
of community. Sociological theory would have avoided many
errors if those phenomena had been properly observed and
evaluated a century ago. The myth of a golden age, when
social harmony prevailed because each man had about as
little as the next one, the warm and generous community
spirit of simple societies, was indeed for the most part
just a myth, and social scientists should have known better
than to fashion out of it a set of utopian standards with
which to criticize their own societies.[44]

In sum,
Ludwig von Mises’s strictures against Romanticism do not seem
to be overdrawn:

is man’s revolt against reason, as well as against the
condition under which nature has compelled him to live.
The romantic is a daydreamer; he easily manages in imagination
to disregard the laws of logic and nature. The thinking
and rationally acting man tries to rid himself of the
discomfort of unsatisfied wants by economic action and
work; he produces in order to improve his position. The
romantic … imagines the pleasures of success but he
does nothing to achieve them he does not remove the obstacles;
he merely removes them in imagination … He hates work,
economy, and reason.

romantic takes all the gifts of a social civilization
for granted and desires, in addition, everything fine
and beautiful that, as he thinks, distant times and creatures
had or have to offer. Surrounded by the comforts of European
town life he longs to be an Indian rajah, bedouin, corsair,
or troubadour. But he sees only that portion of these
people’s lives which seems pleasant to him … The perilous
nature of their existence, the comparative poverty of
their circumstances, their miseries and their toil –
these things his imagination tactfully overlooks: all
is transfigured by a rosy gleam. Compared with this dream
ideal, reality appears arid and shallow. There are obstacles
to overcome which do not exist in the dream… Here there
is work to do, ceaselessly, assiduously… Here one must
plough and sow if one wishes to reap. The romantic does
not choose to admit all this. Obstinate as a child, he
refuses to recognize it. He mocks and jeers; he despises
and loathes the bourgeois.[45]

The Romantic,
or primitivist, attitude was also brilliantly criticized by
the Spanish philosopher, Ortega y Gasset:

it is possible to have peoples who are perennially primitive
… those who have remained in the motionless, frozen
twilight, which never progresses towards midday.

is what happens in the world which is mere Nature. But
it does not happen in the world of civilization which
is ours. Civilization is not “just there,” it is not self-supporting.
It is artificial…. If you want to make use of the advantages
of civilization, but are not prepared to concern yourself
with the upholding of civilization – you are done.
In a trice you find yourself left without civilization
… The primitive forest appears in its native state …
The jungle is always primitive and, vice versa, everything
primitive is mere jungle.[46]

adds that the type of man he sees rising to the fore, the
modern “mass-man,” “believes that the civilization into which
he was born and which he makes use of, is as spontaneous and
self-producing as Nature….” But the mass-man, the herd-man,
is also characterized by his desire to stamp out those individuals
who differ from the mass: “The mass … does not wish to share
life with those who are not of it. It has a deadly hatred
of all that is not itself.”[47]


The Left,
of course, does not couch its demands in terms of stamping
out diversity; what it seeks to achieve sounds semantically
far more pleasant: equality. It is in the name of
equality that the Left seeks all manner of measures, from
progressive taxation to the ultimate stage of communism.

But what,
philosophically, is “equality”? The term must not
be left unanalyzed and accepted at face value. Let us take
three entities: A, B, and C. A,
B, and C are said to be “equal” to each
other (i.e., A = B = C)
if a particular characteristic is found in which
the three entities are uniform or identical. In short, here
are three individual men: A, B, and C.
Each may be similar in some respects but different in others.
If each of them is precisely 5’10” in height, they are then
equal to each other in height. It follows
from our discussion of the concept of equality that A,
B, and C can be completely “equal”
to each other only if they are identical or uniform in all
characteristics – in short, if all of them are, like
the same size of nut or bolt, completely interchangeable.
We see, then, that the ideal of human equality can only
imply total uniformity and the utter stamping out of individuality.

It is
high time, then, for those who cherish freedom, individuality,
the division of labor, and economic prosperity and survival,
to stop conceding the supposed nobility of the ideal of equality.
Too often have “conservatives” conceded the ideal of equality
only to cavil at its “impracticality.” Philosophically, there
can be no divorce between theory and practice. Egalitarian
measures do not “work” because they violate the basic nature
of man, of what it means for the individual man to be truly
human. The call of “equality” is a siren song that can only
mean the destruction of all that we cherish as being human.

It is
ironic that the term “equality” brings its favorable connotation
to us from a past usage that was radically different. For
the concept of “equality” achieved its widespread popularity
during the classical liberal movements of the 18th century,
when it meant, not uniformity of status or income,
but freedom for each and every man, without exception. In
short, “equality” in those days meant the liberation and individualist
concept of full liberty for all persons.

the biochemist Roger Williams correctly points out that the
“‘free and equal’ phrase in the Declaration of Independence
was an unfortunate paraphrase of a better statement contained
in the Virginia Bill of Rights… ‘all men are by nature equally
free and independent.’ In other words, men can be equally
free without being uniform.”[48]

libertarian credo was formulated with particular cogency by
Herbert Spencer in his “Law of Equal Liberty” as the suggested
fundamental core of his social philosophy:

happiness can be obtained only by the exercise of his
faculties….But the fulfillment of this duty necessarily
presupposes freedom of action. Man cannot exercise his
faculties without certain scope. He must have liberty
to go and to come, to see, to feel, to speak, to work;
to get food, raiment, shelter, and to provide for each
and all the needs of his nature… To exercise his faculties
he must have liberty to do all that his faculties actually
impel him to do…. Therefore, he has a right
to that liberty. This, however, is not the right of one
but all. All are endowed with faculties. All are bound
to … [exercise] them. All, therefore, must be free to
do those things in which the exercise of them consists.
That is, all must have rights to liberty of action.

hence there necessarily arises a limitation. For if men
have like claims to that freedom which is needful for
the exercise of their faculties, then must the freedom
of each be bounded by the similar freedom of all…. Wherefore
we arrive at the general proposition, that every man may
claim the fullest liberty to exercise his faculties compatible
with the possession of like liberty by every other man.[49]

only the specific of equality of liberty – the
older view of human equality – is compatible with the
basic nature of man. Equality of condition would
reduce humanity to an antheap existence. Fortunately, the
individuated nature of man, allied to the geographical diversity
on the earth, makes the ideal of total equality unattainable.
But an enormous amount of damage – the crippling of individuality,
as well as economic and social destruction – could be
generated in the attempt.

Let us
turn from equality to the concept of inequality, the condition
that exists when every man is not identical to every
other in all characteristics. It is evident that inequality
flows inevitably out of specialization and the division of
labor. Therefore, a free economy will lead not only to diversity
of occupation, with one man a baker, another an actor, a third
a civil engineer, etc., but specific inequalities
will also emerge in monetary income and in status and scope
of control within each occupation. Each person will, in the
free-market economy, tend to earn a monetary income equal
to the value placed upon his productive contribution in satisfying
the desires and demands of the consumers. In economic terminology
each man will tend to earn an income equal to his “marginal
productivity,” to his particular productivity in satisfying
consumer demands. Clearly, in a world of developed individual
diversity, some men will be more intelligent, others more
alert and farsighted, than the remainder of the population.
Still others, meanwhile, will be more interested in those
areas reaping greater monetary gain; those who succeed at
wildcatting crude oil will reap greater monetary rewards than
those who remain in secretarial jobs.

intellectuals are wont to denounce the “unfairness” of the
market in granting a far higher monetary income to a movie
star than, say, to a social worker, in that way rewarding
the “material” far more than the “spiritual.” It strikes one
that if the social worker’s alleged “goodness” indeed resides
in her “spirituality,” then it is surely inappropriate and
inconsistent to demand that she receive more of the “material”
amenities (money) vis-à-vis the movie star.
In the free society, those who are capable of providing goods
and services that the consumers value and are willing to purchase,
will receive precisely what the consumers are willing to spend.
Those who persist in entering lower-priced occupations, either
because they prefer the work or because they are not sufficiently
capable in the higher-paid fields, can scarcely complain when
they earn a lower salary.

If, then,
inequality of income is the inevitable corollary
of freedom, then so too is inequality of control. In any
organization, whether it be a business firm, a lodge, or a
bridge club, there will always be a minority of people who
will rise to the position of leaders and others who will remain
as followers in the rank and file. Robert Michels discovered
this as one of the great laws of sociology, “The Iron Law
of Oligarchy.” In every organized activity, no matter the
sphere, a small number will become the “oligarchical” leaders
and the others will follow.

In the
market economy, the leaders, being more productive in satisfying
the consumers, will inevitably earn more money than the rank
and file. Within other organizations, the difference will
only be that of control. But, in either case, ability and
interest will select those who rise to the top. The best and
most dedicated steel producer will rise to the leadership
of the steel corporation; the ablest and most energetic will
tend to rise to leadership in the local bridge club, and so

process of ability and dedication finding its own level works
best and most smoothly, it is true, in institutions such as
business firms in the market economy. For here every firm
places itself under the discipline of monetary profits and
income earned by selling a suitable product to the consumers.
If managers or workers fall down on the job, a loss of profits
provides a very rapid signal that something is wrong and that
these producers must mend their ways. In nonmarket organizations,
where profit does not provide a test of efficiency, it is
far easier for other qualities extraneous to the actual activity
to play a role in selecting the members of the oligarchy.
Thus, a local bridge club may select its leaders not only
for ability and dedication to the activities of the club,
but also for extraneous racial or physical characteristics
preferred by the membership. This situation is far less likely
where monetary losses will be incurred by yielding to such
external factors.

We need
only look around us at every human activity or organization,
large or small, political, economic, philanthropic, or recreational,
to see the universality of the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Take
a bridge club of fifty members and, regardless of legal formalities,
half-a-dozen or so will really be running the show. Michels,
in fact, discovered the Iron Law by observing the rigid, bureaucratic,
oligarchic rule that pervaded the Social Democratic parties
in Europe in the late 19th century, even though these parties
were supposedly dedicated in equality and the abolition of
the division of labor.[50]
And it is precisely the obviously frozen inequality of income
and power, and the rule by oligarchy, that has totally disillusioned
the equality-seeking New Left in the Soviet Union. No one
lionizes Brezhnev or Kosygin.

It is
the egalitarian attempt by the New Left to escape the Iron
Law of inequality and oligarchy that accounts for its desperate
efforts to end elite leadership within its own organizations.
(Certainly there has been no indication of any disappearance
of the power elite in oft-heralded Cuba or China.) The early
drive toward egalitarianism in the New Left emerged in the
concept of “participatory democracy.” Instead of the members
of an organization electing an elite leadership, so the theory
ran, each person would participate equally in all of the organization’s
decision-making. It was, by the way, probably this sense
of direct and intense participation by each individual that
accounted for the heady enthusiasm of the masses in the very
early stages of the revolutionary regimes in Soviet Russia
and Cuba – an enthusiasm that quickly waned as the inevitable
oligarchy began to take control and mass participation to

the would-be participatory democrats have made keen criticisms
of bureaucratic rule in our society, the concept itself, when
applied, runs rapidly against the Iron Law. Thus, anyone who
has sat through sessions of any organization engaged in participatory
democracy knows the intense boredom and inefficiency that
develop rapidly. For if each person must participate equally
in all decisions, the time devoted to decision-making must
become almost endless, and the processes of the organization
become life itself for the participants. This is
one of the reasons why many New Left organizations quickly
begin to insist that their members live in communes and dedicate
their entire lives to the organization – in effect, to
merge their lives with the organization. For if they truly
live and pursue participatory democracy, they can hardly do
anything else. But despite this attempt to salvage the concept,
the inevitable gross inefficiency and aggravated boredom ensure
that all but the most intensely dedicated will abandon the
organization. In short, if it can work at all, participatory
democracy can work only in groups so tiny that they are, in
effect, the “leaders” shorn of their following.

We conclude
that, to succeed, any organization must eventually fall into
the hands of specialized “professionals,” of a minority of
persons dedicated to its tasks and able to carry them out.
Oddly enough, it was Lenin who, despite his lip service to
the ultimate ideal of egalitarian communism, recognized that
a revolution, too, in order to succeed, must be led by a minority,
a “vanguard,” of dedicated professionals.

It is
the intense egalitarian drive of the New Left that accounts,
furthermore, for its curious theory of education – a
theory that has made such an enormous impact on the contemporary
student movement in American universities in recent years.
The theory holds that, in contrast to “old-fashioned” concepts
of education, the teacher knows no more than any
of his students. All, then, are “equal” in condition; one
is no better in any sense than any other. Since only an imbecile
would actually proclaim that the student knows as much about
the content of any given discipline as his professor, this
claim of equality is sustained by arguing for the abolition
of content in the classroom. This content, asserts the New
Left, is “irrelevant” to the student and hence not a proper
part of the educational process. The only proper subject for
the classroom is not a body of truths, not assigned readings
or topics, but open-ended, free-floating participatory discussion
of the student’s feelings, since only his feelings are truly
“relevant” to the student. And since the lecture method implies,
of course, that the lecturing professor knows more than the
students to whom he imparts knowledge, the lecture too must
go. Such is the caricature of “education” propounded by the
New Left.

One question
that this doctrine calls to mind, and one that the New Left
has never really answered, of course, is why the
students should then be in college to begin with. Why couldn’t
they just as well achieve these open-ended discussions of
their feelings at home or at the neighborhood candy store?
Indeed, on this educational theory, the school as such has
no particular function; it becomes, in effect, the
local candy store, and it too merges with life itself. But
then, again, why have a school at all? And why, in fact, should
the students pay tuition and the faculty receive a salary
for their nonexistent services? If all are truly equal, why
is the faculty alone paid?

In any
case, the emphasis on feelings rather than rational content
in courses again insures an egalitarian school; or rather,
the school as such may disappear, but the “courses” would
surely be egalitarian, for if only “feelings” are to be discussed,
then surely everyone’s feelings are approximately “equal”
to everyone else’s. Once allow reason, intellect, and achievement
full sway, and the demon of inequality will quickly raise
its ugly head.

If, then,
the natural inequality of ability and of interest among men
must make elites inevitable, the only sensible course is to
abandon the chimera of equality and accept the universal necessity
of leaders and followers. The task of the libertarian, the
person dedicated to the idea of the free society, is not to
inveigh against elites which, like the need for freedom, flow
directly from the nature of man. The goal of the libertarian
is rather to establish a free society, a society in which
each man is free to find his best level. In such a free society,
everyone will be “equal” only in liberty, while diverse and
unequal in all other respects. In this society the elites,
like everyone else, will be free to rise to their best level.

In Jeffersonian
terminology, we will discover “natural aristocracies” who
will rise to prominence and leadership in every field. The
point is to allow the rise of these natural aristocracies,
but not the rule of “artificial aristocracies” – those
who rule by means of coercion. The artificial aristocrats,
the coercive oligarchs, are the men who rise to power
by invading the liberties of their fellow men, by denying
them their freedom. On the contrary, the natural aristocrats
live in freedom and harmony with their fellows, and rise by
exercising their individuality and their highest abilities
in the service of their fellows, either in an organization
or by producing efficiently for the consumers. In fact, the
coercive oligarchs invariably rise to power by suppressing
the natural elites, along with other men; the two kinds of
leadership are antithetical.

Let us
take a hypothetical example of a possible case of such conflict
between different kinds of elites. A large group of people
voluntarily engage in professional football, selling their
services to an eager consuming public. Quickly rising to the
top is a natural elite of the best – the most able and
dedicated – football players, coaches, and organizers
of the game. Here we have an example of the rise of a natural
elite in a free society. Then, the power elite in control
of the government decides in its wisdom that all professional
athletics, and especially football, are evil. The government
then decrees that pro football is outlawed and orders everyone
to take part instead in a local eurythmics club as a mass-participatory
substitute. Here the rulers of the government are clearly
a coercive oligarchy, an “artificial elite,” using force to
repress a voluntary or natural elite (as well as the rest
of the population).

The libertarian
view of freedom, government, individuality, envy, and coercive
versus natural elites has never been put more concisely
or with greater verve than by H.L. Mencken:

government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the
superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him
and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization,
then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only
in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it
be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is
inferior in every way against both. One of its primary
functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as
much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another
as possible, to search out and combat originality among
men. All it can see in an original idea is potential change,
and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous
man to any government is the man who is able to think
things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing
superstitions and taboos.[51]

the libertarian writer Albert Jay Nock saw in the political
conflicts between Left and Right

a tussle between two groups of mass-men, one large and
poor, the other small and rich … The object of the tussle
was the material gains accruing from control of the State’s
machinery. It is easier to seize wealth (from the producers)
than to produce it; and as long as the State makes the
seizure of wealth a matter of legalized privilege, so
long will the squabble for that privilege go on.[52]

Schoeck’s Envy
makes a powerful case for the view that the modern egalitarian
drive for socialism and similar doctrines is a pandering to
envy of the different and the unequal, but the socialist attempt
to eliminate envy through egalitarianism can never hope to
succeed. For there will always be personal differences, such
as looks, ability, health, and good or bad fortune, which
no egalitarian program, however rigorous, can stamp out, and
on which envy will be able to fasten its concerns.


On the interrelations between freedom, diversity, and the
development of each individual, see the classic work of
Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Limits of State Action
(Cambridge University Press, 1969). On freedom as necessary
for the development of individuality, see also Josiah Warren,
Equitable Commerce (New York: Burt Franklin, 1965)
and Stephen Pearl Andrews, The Science of Society
(London: C. W. Daniel, 1913).

The economists Bauer and Yamey cogently define economic
development as “the widening of the range of alternatives
open to people as consumers and as producers.” Peter T.
Bauer and Basil S. Yamey, The Economics of Underdeveloped
Countries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957),
p. 151.

See George J. Stigler, “The Division of Labor is Limited
by the Extent of the Market,” Journal of Political Economy
(June, 1951), p. 193.

Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological
Analysis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951),
pp. 292–95, p. 303.

Historians have been reminding us in recent decades that
neither in England nor in the United States did government
confine itself strictly to the ideal of laissez faire.
True enough; but we must compare this era to the role of
government in earlier – and later – days to see
the significance of the difference. Thus, cf. Karl Wittfogel,
Oriental Despotism (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1957).

The New Left, for example, ignores and scorns Marshall Tito
despite his equally prominent role as Marxian revolutionary,
guerrilla leader, and rebel against Soviet Russian dictation.
The reason, as will be seen further below, is because Tito
has pioneered in shifting from Marxism toward an individualistic
philosophy and a market economy.

It is difficult, of course, to see how intangible services
could be produced at all without “alienation.” How can a
teacher teach, for example, if he is not allowed to “alienate”
his teaching services by providing them to his students?

Thus, see Alexander Gray, The Socialist Tradition
(London: Longmans, Green, 1947), pp. 306, 328.

Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (New
York: International Publishers, 1938), p. 10.

Quoted in Gray, The Socialist Tradition, p. 328.
Gray amusingly adds: “A short weekend on a farm might have
convinced Marx that the cattle themselves might have some
objection to being reared in this casual manner, in the

August Bebel, in Women and Socialism. Quoted in
Mises, Socialism, p. 190n.

A recent news report disclosed that China has now softened
its assault on intellectual labor. The policy of interchanging
students and workers seems to have worked badly, and it
has been found that “a lack of teachers and of technical
training has hampered industrial development and production
in recent years.” Furthermore, “workers appear often to
have been not tempered but softened by their exposure to
a more sedentary life as many students, rather than finding
life on the farm rewarding, fled China or killed themselves.”
Lee Lescase, “China Softens Attitude on Profs. School Policy,”
The Washington Post (July 23, 1970), p. A12.

On the utopian socialists, see Mises, Socialism,
p. 168.

It is probable that Mao’s particular devotion to the communist
ideal was influenced by his having been an anarchist before
becoming a Marxist.

Quoted in Gray, The Socialist Tradition, p. 328.

Italics as Lenin’s. V.I. Lenin, Left-Wing
Communism: An Infantile Disorder

Mises, Socialism, p. 190.

Gray, The Socialist Tradition, p. 328.

Quoted in Mises, Socialism, p. 164.

Thus, one of the major criticisms of the New Left journal,
The Guardian, by its rebellious split-off, The
Liberated Guardian, was that the former functioned
in the same way as any “bourgeois” magazine, with specialized
editors, typists, copyreaders, business staff, etc. The
latter is run by a “collective” in which, assertedly, everyone
does every task without specialization. The same criticism,
along with the same solution, was applied by the women’s
caucus which confiscated the New Left weekly, Rat.
Some of the “Women’s Liberation” groups have been so extreme
in the drive to extirpate individuality as to refuse to
identify the names of individual members, writers, or spokesmen.

Thus, a shock to orthodox communists throughout the world
was the 1958 Program of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia,
which declared that the individual’s “personal interest
… is the moving force of our social development … The
objectivity of the category of personal interest lies in
the fact that [Yugoslavia] socialism … cannot subject
the personal happiness of man to any ulterior ‘goals’ or
‘higher aims,’ for the highest aims of socialism is the
personal happiness of man.” From Kommunist (Belgrade),
August 8, 1963. Quoted in R. V. Burks, “Yugoslavia: Has
Tito Gone Bourgeois?” East Europe (August, 1965),
pp. 2–14. Also see T. Peter Svennevig, “The Ideology of
the Yugoslav Heretics,” Social Research (Spring,
1960), pp. 39–48. For attacks by orthodox communists, see
Shih Tung-Hsiang, “The Degeneration of the Yugoslav Economy
Owned by the Whole People,” Peking Review (June
12, 1964), pp. 11–16; and “Peaceful Transition from Socialism
to Capitalism?” Monthly Review (March, 1964), pp.

John W. Aldridge, In the Country of the Young (New
York: Harper & Row, 1970).

Quoted in Mises, Socialism, p. 304.

On the strong influence of these reactionary thinkers on
the anti-individualism of 19th-century Marxists and socialists,
see in particular Leon Bramson, The Political Context
of Sociology (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1961), pp. 12–16 and passim.

See the critique of Ellul in Charles Silberman, The
Myths of Automation (New York: Harper & Row, 1966),
pp. 104–105.

Thus, see the perceptively satiric article by Tom Wolfe,
“Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s,” New York
(June 8, 1970).

This worship of the primitive permeates Polanyi’s book,
which at one point seriously applies the term “noble savage”
to the Kaffirs of South Africa. Karl Polanyi, The Great
Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), p. 157.

Both the passive and the tribal aspects of New Left culture
were embodied in its ideal of the “Woodstock Nation,” in
which hundreds of thousands of herd-like, undifferentiated
youth wallowed passively in the mud listening to their tribal
ritual music.

Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism (New York:
Meridian Books, 1955), pp. 53–54. The New Left’s emphasis
on passivity, primitivism, the irrational, and the dissolution
of individuality may account for the current popularity
of Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. See ibid., pp. 297ff.

Mises, Socialism, p. 304.

Mises, Socialism, p. 305.

Silberman, The Myths of Automation, pp. 104–105.

Neither is the magic used by primitive tribes any evidence
of superior, “idealistic,” as opposed to this worldly, “materialistic,”
ends. On the contrary, the magic rites were unsound and
erroneous means by which the tribes hoped to attain
such materialistic ends as a good harvest, rainfall, etc.
Thus, the Cargo Cult of New Guinea, on observing Europeans
obtaining food from overseas by sending away scraps of paper,
imitated the Europeans by writing ritualistic phrases on
slips of paper and sending them out to sea, after which
they waited for cargoes from overseas. Cf. Ludwig von Mises,
Epistemological Problems of Economics (Princeton:
D. Van Nostrand, 1960), pp. 62–66, 102–105.

Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science, Religion and Other
Essays (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1955), pp.
27–31. Also see Mises, Epistemological Problems of Economics.

See the inspiring discussion in Peter T. Bauer, West
African Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

Bernard J. Siegel, “Review of Melville J. Herskovits, Economic
Anthropology,” American Economic Review (June,
1953), p. 402. On developing individualism among the Pondo
of South Africa, see Bauer and Yamey, The Economics
of Underdeveloped Countries, p. 67n. Also see Raymond
Firth, Human Types (New York: Mentor Books, 1958),
p. 122; Sol Tax, Penny Capitalism: A Guatemalan Indian
Economy (Washington, D.C., 1953); and Raymond Firth
and Basil S. Yamey, eds., Capital, Saving and Credit
in Peasant Societies (Chicago: Aldine, 1963).

Bauer, West African Trade, p. 8. Also see Bauer
and Yamey, The Economics of Underdeveloped Countries,
pp. 64–67. Similarly, Professor S. Herbert Frankel reports
on how West Africans habitually wait at entrances of banks
to fall upon their relatives to demand money as they leave.
Any man who accumulates money must go to great lengths to
deceive his relatives on his actual status. Cited in Helmut
Schoeck, Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour (New
York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1970), pp. 59–60. On
the responsiveness of African natives to market economic
incentives, see (in addition to Bauer, (West African
Trade) Peter Kilby, “African Labour Productivity Reconsidered,”
Economic Journal (June, 1961), pp. 273–291.

The works cited are Clyde Kluckhohn, The Navaho
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1946) and Navaho
Witchcraft (1944; Boston: Beacon Press, 1967); Allan
R. Holmberg, Nomands of the Lon Bow: The Siriono of
Eastern Bolivia (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1950); Sol Tax, “Changing Consumption in
Indian Guatemala,” Economic Development and Cultural
Change (1957); and Oscar Lewis, Life in a Mexican
Village: Tepoztlan Restudied (Urbana, Ill.: University
of Illinois Press, 1951). See Schoeck, Envy, pp.


See Schoeck, Envy, p. 50.

From Gerardo and Alicia Reichel-Dolmatoff, The People
of Aritama – The Cultural Personality of a Colombian
Mestizo Village (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1961), p. 396. Quoted in Schoeck, Envy, pp. 51–52.

Watson and Samora “Subordinate Leadership in a Bicultural
Community: An Analysis,” American Sociological Review,
Vol. 19, No. 4 (Aug., 1954), pp. 413–421.

Eric Wolf, “Types of Latin American Peasantry: A Preliminary
Discussion.” American Anthropologist New Series,
Vol. 57, No. 3, Part 1 (Jun., 1955), p. 460.

Schoeck, Envy, p. 47.

Schoeck, Envy, pp. 31.

Mises, Socialism, pp. 463–464. See also José
Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (New
York: W.W. Norton, 1932), pp. 63–65.

José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1932), pp. 97.

José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1932), pp. 98, 84. For Ortega,
the great looming danger is that the mass-man will increasingly
use the State “to crush beneath it any creative minority
which disturbs it – disturbs it in any order of things:
in politics, in industry.” Ibid., p. 133.

Roger J. Williams, Free and Unequal: The Biological
Basis of Individual Liberty (Austin, Texas: University
of Texas Press, 1953), pp. 4–5. Williams adds:

not our love of liberty, which seems to be inherent in
all of us, rest squarely upon our inequalities?
If at birth we all possessed the same potential tastes
… would we care about being free to pursue them as we
individually desire? … It seems to me clear that the
idea of freedom arose directly out of this human variability.
If we were all alike there would seem to be no reason
for wanting freedom; ‘living my own life’ would be an
empty, meaningless expression. (Ibid., pp. 5, 12.)

Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (London: John Chapman,
1851), pp. 76–78. In the remainder of the book, Spencer
spins out the concrete implications of his basic principle.
For a critique of the Law of Equal Liberty, see Murray N.
Rothbard, Power and Market (Menlo Park, Calif.:
Institute for Humane Studies, 1970), pp. 159–160.

Robert Michels, Political Parties (Glencoe, Ill.:
Free Press, 1949). See also the brilliant work by Gaetano
Mosca, The Ruling Class (New York: McGraw-Hill,
1939), which focuses on the inevitability of a minority
“ruling class” wielding power in government.

H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Crestomathy (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1949), p. 145.

Albert Jay Nock, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (New
York: Harper, 1943), p. 121.

N. Rothbard
(1926–1995) was the author of Man,
Economy, and State
, Conceived
in Liberty
, What
Has Government Done to Our Money
, For
a New Liberty
, The
Case Against the Fed
, and many
other books and articles
. He was
also the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
, and academic vice president of
the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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