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Aug 16, 2009 10:45 am

Mises on Progressive Historians

The Mises Institute has posted a 1952 essay from Ludwig von Mises on what was being taught in universities (especially by historians). (HT to Michael Sanera, who points out how relevant it is to today's universities). A few quotes:

There is but one means, the progressive believes, to free mankind from the misery and degradation produced by laissez-faire and rugged individualism, viz., to adopt central planning, the system with which the Russians are successfully experimenting. It is true that the results obtained by the Soviets are not yet fully satisfactory. But these shortcomings were caused only by the peculiar conditions of Russia. . . .

Such is the philosophy taught at most present-day schools and propagated by novels and plays. It is this doctrine that guides the actions of almost all contemporary governments. The American "progressive" feels ashamed of what he calls the social backwardness of his country. He considers it a duty of the United States to subsidize foreign socialist governments lavishly in order to enable them to go on with their ruinous socialist ventures. In his eyes, the real enemy of the American people is big business, that is, the enterprises which provide the American common man with the highest standard of living ever reached in history. . . . He never mentions the new or improved products which business almost every year makes accessible to the masses. But he goes into raptures about the rather questionable achievements of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the deficit of which is made good out of taxes collected from big business.

The most infatuated expositors of this ideology are to be found in the university departments of history, political science, sociology, and literature. The professors of these departments enjoy the advantage, in referring to economic issues, that they are talking about a subject with which they are not familiar at all. This is especially flagrant in the case of historians.

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Jane S. Shaw - 2/1/2009

He does name some names, such as Paul Sweezy and Seymour E. Harris, but they are economists not historians.

As for TVA, the fact that people were grateful for something that cost other people a lot of money doesn't make it a success. And, as Jane Jacobs has written in one of her books, the economic development that the TVA was supposed to bring never materialized.

Ralph Luker - 1/31/2009

Does von Mises name names in this essay? You have to wonder who on earth he was talking about. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.? His anti-communism was long-established by 1952. As for TVA, it brought electricity to the Tennessee Valley. People there were grateful for it. It's doubtful that private initiative could have done so on so massive a scale or timely manner.