On the Importance of Economic Education

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As a libertarian, I had always believed that the most important thing we could do was to teach people about the non-aggression principle and the virtues of the ethic of self-ownership and property rights. This, however, is not sufficient, at least not in today’s context. There are too many people who believe that the state is able to solve their problems and improve their lifestyles.

Instead, I now think that the goal that we have to set for ourselves is that of economic education and not just predicating the values of the non-aggression principle. The majority of people on this planet are simply oblivious to the economic laws that permeate human action. Though some are aware of the law of supply and demand, this is barely scratching the surface. As Austro-libertarians, it is our responsibility to “get the word out” as much as we can. From marginal revenue product and decreasing marginal utility to the issues of central banking, time preference and minimum wage laws: he who feels able to disseminate this message ought to do just that.

Anyone now calling for state intervention might abandon those cries for further controls if they knew more about economics. If ever the average person realizes what the logical and apodictic consequences of action are, then it will become contradictory to support those policies. In my playbook, anyone wishing to share the message of freedom and economic rationality must be prepared to debate socialists and defend the free market.

It’s of course impossible to accurately predict whether a freer society will exist in the future. One can only remain hopeful. Yet hope is not going to change much any time soon (or perhaps ever). Only by underlining the importance of economic education can progress be made. The Austro-libertarian approach entails a respect for the subjective choices and values that individuals place when they try to attain their goals, but also delineates the playing field in their choice of means. Privately held property and the respect (and legal recognition) of property rights are paramount for the establishment of a free and civilized society.

The libertarian ethic specifies what is just and what is not: aggression against innocents cannot be justified, and legitimate property is that which proceeds from previously unowned resources or those resources obtained through voluntary agreements. Anything else, things like industry regulation, professional licensing, anti-trust laws, gun control, drug laws and affirmative action — all these obscenities are criminal acts by the state against innocent property owners.

People who want minimum wage laws, or who support unions or monetary inflation: they believe that they are honestly pursuing a higher quality of life for those they support. But the inconvenient truth is that their efforts are ultimately economically counterproductive and harmful to human dignity.

Allow me to end this article by quoting Mises’ Human Action:

The body of economic knowledge is an essential element in the structure of human civilization; it is the foundation upon which modern industrialism and all the moral, intellectual, technological, and therapeutical achievements of the last centuries have been built. It rests with men whether they will make the proper use of the rich treasure with which this knowledge provides them or whether they will leave it unused. But if they fail to take the best advantage of it and disregard its teachings and warnings, they will not annul economics; they will stamp out society and the human race.

Let’s do hope indeed that we do not fail to take advantage of the teachings and warnings that follow from a sound economic analysis and the libertarian ethic, for if we do not, then the future of humanity will be forever filled with socialism and institutionalized violence.

Manuel Lora [send him mail] is a freelance TV producer and multimedia specialist in New Orleans.

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