Vacation reading

Writes Greg Privette:

Hi Lew,

Hope everyone is well down in Auburn.

Every year I take a week of vacation and just ride my motorcycle across country. I generally stick to US and State highways as much as possible. It is a great reminder of just how diverse and beautiful this country is despite the efforts of so many to ruin it.

Before these trips I download and print PDF books from to read at the motels in the evenings and while I am dining. I want to says thanks to you and everyone at the Mises Institute for making these resources available. This is a great service to education in the cause of Liberty.

This year instead of a book, I printed out several shorter essay’s. One of them was “Road to Serfdom”, by Hayek. It was a great read but I noticed one flaw in Hayek’s thinking (at least from our perspective). I noticed the same thing a few years ago reading “Economics in One Lesson”, by Hazlitt. They both do great analysis of the underlying reason’s for the negative effects of virtually any government intervention. These analysis are all well thought out and supported by examples, etc. The thing I find interesting in both cases, the flaw, is they both make arbitrary statements to the effect of government being necessary. In both cases it is the one thing they both state as fact with little or no rationale. It is just thrown out there. They then proceed to show how the coercive nature of government creates some negative effects in everything it does. I think this “flaw” in thinking is possibly one of the more difficult things for any of us to educate our selves or others to overcome. It is very common thinking among conservatives. Even having always considered myself a Libertarian I also had this intellectual flaw for a long time. It is certainly a testament to the power of propaganda. If propaganda didn’t work they wouldn’t put so many resources into it.

Reading these types of statements always reminds me of something Rothbard wrote about his own final awakening. I remember someone telling this story a few years ago during a speech at one of the Mises events also. Rothbard talks about having had his usual spirited but friendly debate with several of his liberal friends (back when that was still possible). He made the “min-archist” argument that the only “legitimate” functions of government were police, courts, etc. He said his liberal friends made the counter point that if those things were necessary because he believed they were, why weren’t social safety nets, etc. legitimate because liberals believe they are? He had no real argument to refute their position. He mentions later realizing they were actually completely correct. This led him to the conclusion that he was faced with only two choices. Become a socialist, or become an anarchist. Fortunately for all who love Liberty we know the choice he made.

In think part of the lesson is it may be time to rethink, or more deeply think through your positions, if you are faced with an argument you struggle to refute on moral, ethical, or intellectual grounds.

Again, thanks to you and all the contributors to the Mises Institute and LRC for all you do in the cause of Liberty.