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Mises On War

by C/O Diogenes Saturday, Mar. 22, 2003 at 5:27 PM

The next time some clown tells you "War is good for the economy" remember this.

Mises on War



By Ludwig von Mises

[Special Edition, March 21, 2003]

War…is harmful, not only to the conquered but to the conqueror. Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking. Peace and not war is the father of all things. Only economic action has created the wealth around us; labor, not the profession of arms, brings happiness. Peace builds, war destroys. (Socialism, p. 59)

The market economy involves peaceful cooperation. It bursts asunder when the citizens turn into warriors and, instead of exchanging commodities and services, fight one another. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 817 ; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 821)

Economically considered, war and revolution are always bad business.  (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 152)

The market economy means peaceful cooperation and peaceful exchange of goods and services. It cannot persist when wholesale killing is the order of the day. (Interventionism: An Economic Analysis, p. 67)

War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings. The earthquake means good business for construction workers, and cholera improves the business of physicians, pharmacists, and undertakers; but no one has for that reason yet sought to celebrate earthquakes and cholera as stimulators of the productive forces in the general interest. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 154)

There have been...in all other nations, eulogists of aggression, war, and conquest. (Omnipotent Government, p. 232)

War can really cause no economic boom, at least not directly, since an increase in wealth never does result from destruction of goods. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 154)

[T]he essence of so-called war prosperity; it enriches some by what it takes from others. It is not rising wealth but a shifting of wealth and income. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 158)

War is… a destroyer and annihilator, in short, as an evil that strikes all, victor as well as vanquished. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 86)

The philosophy of protectionism is a philosophy of war. The wars of our age are not at variance with popular economic doctrines; they are, on the contrary, the inescapable result of consistent application of these doctrines. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 683; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 687)

Whoever wishes peace among peoples must fight statism. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 77)

Modern society, based as it is on the division of labor, can be preserved only under conditions of lasting peace. (Liberalism, p. 44)

[O]nly tolerance can create and preserve the condition of social peace without which humanity must relapse into the barbarism and penury of centuries long past. (Liberalism, p. 56)

Modern war is not a war of royal armies. It is a war of the peoples, a total war. It is a war of states which do not leave to their subjects any private sphere; they consider the whole population a part of the armed forces. Whoever does not fight must work for the support and equipment of the army. Army and people are one and the same. The citizens passionately participate in the war. For it is their state, their God, who fights.  (Omnipotent Government, p. 104)

Men are fighting one another because they are convinced that the extermination of adversaries is the only means of promoting their own well-being. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 175; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 176)

The existence of the armaments industries is a consequence of the warlike spirit, not its cause. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 297; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 300)

What basis for war could there still be, once all peoples had been set free? (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 34)

[V]ictorious war is an evil even for the victor, that peace is always better than war.  (Liberalism,  p. 24)

Wars, foreign and domestic (revolutions, civil wars), are more likely to be avoided the closer the division of labor binds men. (Critique of Interventionism, p. 115)

War is the alternative to freedom of foreign investment as realized by the international capital market. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 498; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 502)

The statement that one man's boon is the other man's damage is valid with regard to robbery, war, and booty. The robber's plunder is the damage of the despoiled victim. But war and commerce are two different things. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 662; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 666)

It is certainly true that our age is full of conflicts which generate war. However, these conflicts do not spring from the operation of the unhampered market society. It may be permissible to call them economic conflicts because they concern that sphere of human life which is, in common speech, known as the sphere of economic activities. But it is a serious blunder to infer from this appellation that the source of these conflicts are conditions which develop within the frame of a market society. It is not capitalism that produces them, but precisely the anticapitalistic policies designed to check the functioning of capitalism. They are an outgrowth of the various governments' interference with business, of trade and migration barriers and discrimination against foreign labor, foreign products, and foreign capital. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 680; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 684)

What has transformed the limited war between royal armies into total war, the clash between peoples, is not technicalities of military art, but the substitution of the welfare state for the laissez-faire state. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 820; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 824 )

Under laissez faire peaceful coexistence of a multitude of sovereign nations is possible. Under government control of business it is impossible. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 820; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 824)

Of course, in the long run war and the preservation of the market economy are incompatible. Capitalism is essentially a scheme for peaceful nations. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 824; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 828)

What the incompatibility of war and capitalism really means is that war and high civilization are incompatible. If the efficiency of capitalism is directed by governments toward the output of instruments of destruction, the ingenuity of private business turns out weapons which are powerful enough to destroy everything. What makes war and capitalism incompatible with one another is precisely the unparalleled efficiency of the capitalist mode of production. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 824; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 828)

The emergence of the international division of labor requires the total abolition of war. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 827; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 831)

Modern war is merciless, it does not spare pregnant women or infants; it is indiscriminate killing and destroying. It does not respect the rights of neutrals. Millions are killed, enslaved, or expelled from the dwelling places in which their ancestors lived for centuries. Nobody can foretell what will happen in the next chapter of this endless struggle. This has little to do with the atomic bomb. The root of the evil is not the construction of new, more dreadful weapons. It is the spirit of conquest. It is probable that scientists will discover some methods of defense against the atomic bomb. But this will not alter things, it will merely prolong for a short time the process of the complete destruction of civilization. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 828; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 832)

To defeat the aggressors is not enough to make peace durable. The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 828; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 832)

The attainment of the economic aims of man presupposes peace, (Socialism, p. 62)

Social development is always a collaboration for joint action; the social relationship always means peace, never war. Death-dealing actions and war are anti-social. All those theories which regard human progress as an outcome of conflicts between human groups have overlooked this truth. (Socialism, p. 279)

Within a world of free trade and democracy there are no incentives for war and conquest. (Omnipotent Government, p. 3)

But what is needed for a satisfactory solution of the burning problem of international relations is neither a new office with more committees, secretaries, commissioners, reports, and regulations, nor a new body of armed executioners, but the radical overthrow of mentalities and domestic policies which must result in conflict. (Omnipotent Government, p. 6)

If some peoples pretend that history or geography gives them the right to subjugate other races, nations, or peoples, there can be no peace. (Omnipotent Government, p. 15)

For only in peace can the economic system achieve its ends, the fullest satisfaction of human needs and wants. (Omnipotent Government, p. 50)

It is not a shortcoming of the liberal program for international peace that it cannot be realized within an antiliberal world and that it must fail in an age of interventionism and socialism. (Omnipotent Government, p. 91)

Wars of aggression are popular nowadays with those nations which are convinced that only victory and conquest could improve their material well-being. (Omnipotent Government, p. 104)

The old liberals were right in asserting that no citizen of a liberal and democratic nation profits from a victorious war. (Omnipotent Government, p. 104)

Social cooperation and war are in the long run incompatible… But within the social system of cooperation and division of labor war means disintegration. The progressive evolution of society requires the progressive elimination of war. Under present conditions of international division of labor there is no room left for wars. The great society of world-embracing mutual exchange of commodities and services demands a peaceful coexistence of states and nations. (Omnipotent Government, p. 122)

If men do not now succeed in abolishing war, civilization and mankind are doomed. (Omnipotent Government, p. 122)

If you want to abolish war, you must eliminate its causes. What is needed is to restrict government activities to the preservation of life, health, and private property, and thereby to safeguard the working of the market. Sovereignty must not be used for inflicting harm on anyone, whether citizen or foreigner. (Omnipotent Government, p. 138)

The market economy involves peaceful cooperation and bursts asunder when people, instead of exchanging commodities and services, are fighting one another. (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science p. 92)

Only one thing can conquer war--that liberal attitude of mind which can see nothing in war but destruction and annihilation, and which can never wish to bring about a war, because it regards war as injurious even to the victors. (Theory of Money and Credit, p. 433)

Where liberalism prevails, there will never be war. (The Theory of Money and Credit, p. 433)

If war is regarded as advantageous, then laws . . . will not be allowed to stand in the way of going to war. On the first day of any war, all the laws opposing obstacles to it will be swept aside. (The Theory of Money and Credit, p. 434)

The first condition for the establishment of perpetual peace is, of course, the general adoption of the principles of laissez-faire capitalism. (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science p. 137)

He who wants to prepare a lasting peace must…be a free-trader and a democrat and work with decisiveness for the removal of all political rule over colonies by a mother country and fight for the full freedom of movements of persons and goods. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 86)

If one wants to make peace, then one must get rid of the possibility of conflicts between peoples. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 86)

If one holds the view that there are irreconcilable class antagonisms between the individual strata of society that cannot be resolved except by the forcible victory of one class over others, if one believes that no contacts between individual nations are possible except those whereby one wins what the other loses, then, of course, one must admit that revolutions at home and wars abroad cannot be avoided. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 87)

Whoever wants peace among nations must seek to limit the state and its influence most strictly. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 94)

The way to eternal peace does not lead through strengthening state and central power, as socialism strives for. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 96)

[W]ith the progress of the division of labor we see the number of wars and battles diminishing ever more and more. The spirit of industrialism, which is indefatigably active in the development of trade relations, undermines the warlike spirit. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 150)

Liberalism rejects aggressive war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility. It rejects aggressive war because it regards victory as harmful, and it wants no conquests because it sees them as an unsuitable means for reaching the ultimate goals for which it strives. Not through war and victory but only through work can a nation create the preconditions for the well-being of its members. Conquering nations finally perish, either because they are annihilated by strong ones or because the ruling class is culturally overwhelmed by the subjugated. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 87)

History has witnessed the failure of many endeavors to impose peace by war, cooperation by coercion, unanimity by slaughtering dissidents…. A lasting order cannot be established by bayonets. (Omnipotent Government, p. 7)

Whoever on ethical grounds wants to maintain war permanently for its own sake as a feature of relations among peoples must clearly realize that this can happen only at the cost of the general welfare, since the economic development of the world would have to be turned back at least to the state of the year 1830 to realize this martial ideal even only to some extent. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 151)

The losses that the national economy suffers from war, apart from the disadvantages that exclusion from world trade entails, consist of the destruction of goods by military actions, of the consumption of war material of all kinds, and of the loss of productive labor that the persons drawn into military service would have rendered in their civilian activities. Further losses from loss of labor occur insofar as the number of workers is lastingly reduced by the number of the fallen and as the survivors become less fit in consequence of injuries suffered, hardships undergone, illnesses suffered, and worsened nutrition. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 151–52)

There are circumstances which make the consumption of capital unavoidable. A costly war cannot be financed without such a damaging measure….There may arise situations in which it may be unavoidable to burn down the house to keep from freezing, but those who do that should realize what it costs and what they will have to do without later on. (Interventionism: an Economic Analysis, p. 52)

It is not the war profits of the entrepreneurs that are objectionable. War itself is objectionable! (Interventionism: an Economic Analysis, p. 74)

From the beginning the intention prevailed in all socialist groups of dropping none of the measures adopted during the war after the war but rather of advancing on the way toward the completion of socialism.  (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 176)

[A]ggressors cannot wage total war without introducing socialism. (Interventionism: an Economic Analysis, p. 70)

The great British economist Edwin Cannan (1861–1935) wrote that if anyone had the impertinence to ask him what he did in the Great War, he would answer, "I protested."  (Economic Freedom and Interventionism, p. 172.)

--------

Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) was the leading economist of the Austrian School. The quotations are from:

• The Theory of Money and Credit (Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1981 [1912])     

• Nation, State, and Economy (N.Y.: New York University Press, 1983 [1919])      

• Socialism (Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1981 [1922])     

• Liberalism (Irvington, N.Y.: FEE, 1985 [1927]     

• Critique of Interventionism (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1977 [1929])     

• Interventionism: An Economic Analysis (Irvington, N.Y.: FEE, 1998 [1940])     

• Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War (Spring Mills, PN.: Libertarian Press, 1985 [1944]     

• Human Action (3rd-4th Edition, Irvington N.Y.: FEE, 1996; The Scholar's Edition, 1998 [1949])     

• The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science (Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1978 [1962])     

• Economic Freedom and Interventionism (Irvington, N.Y.: FEE, 1990)

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The Road to War... Diogenes Saturday, Mar. 22, 2003 at 5:29 PM

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