Today’s Quote: von Mises on Laissez-Faire

Another way to look at it is, if we’re too stupid to make decisions for ourselves, how can we be smart enough to elect the right people to make decisions for us?

If one rejects laissez faire on account of man’s fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.
— Ludwig von Mises
Planning for Freedom (1952), p. 44



Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
— H.L. Mencken

  • Seth

    Wow. That sounds like that might the source of Reagan’s inaugaral address. “If no one has the capacity to govern himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”

    Of course, many people might believe that the smart people Harvard are capable of that.

  • Steve Greene

    Of course, the broader point from von Mises’ perspective is that “laissez faire” (the “free market”) is the “natural processes” of human interaction (people dealing with each other of their own choice) which have the results that reward, or channel, beneficial and productive activities, while penalizing or eliminating unbeneficial and unproductive activities – and that when you introduce the factor of coercive support (which taxation is one form of) this short-circuits the reward/penalty function. In terms of monetarily-related activities, money acts as a distillation of relevant knowledge in the face of vast ignorance of knowledge that is not or even cannot be articulated. Spending money *is* a voting process, in more than an analogical sense, and as such it happens to be in general far superior to the democratic voting process of the political system.