… is from Part II, Sec. 5, Chapter 3, para. 3 of Ludwig von Mises’s 1944 book Omnipotent Government:
The policy of democracies is suicidal. Turbulent mobs demand acts which are contrary to society’s and their own best interests. They return to Parliament corrupt demagogues, adventurers, and quacks who praise patent medicines and idiotic remedies. Democracy has resulted in an upheaval of the domestic barbarians against reason, sound policies, and civilization. The masses have firmly established the dictators in many European countries. They may succeed very soon in America too.
(HT Dan Klein)
Mises is certainly correct about the unthinkingness of most of such protesters, and about the political consequences of their, and others, mistaking publicly expressed passion about economic matters for knowledge and wisdom about such matters.
But keep in mind that Mises (a scholar forced to flee his home by one of history’s vilest dictators) penned these words nearly 68 years ago, at a time when the belief in full-fledged socialism still was widespread throughout the western world (and not only in university social-science and liberal-arts departments). America did not then establish a dictator. (Who knows, I concede, what would have happened had FDR not died in 1945? He certainly had all the makings of a first-class secular savior, and was disgustingly insistent upon playing the role.) Yet despite countless unwise pieces of legislation enacted over the past 80 years, the U.S. economy then remained – and, I argue, today still remains – sufficiently free to permit entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs to bestow enormous, sometimes unmeasurable, benefits through the market upon consumers. And we are not yet a police state. (But see David Henderson.) We are moving in the wrong direction, to be sure – toward more knee-jerk celebration of the collective and away from genuine respect for individual preferences and choices.
But I emphatically dissent from the concern of my more distraught friends who see
little too-little substantive difference between the USA circa 2011 and, say, the USSR (circa anytime).
Perhaps the know-nothing know-it-alls today protesting on Wall Street – or their better-coiffed and better-dressed comrades occupying official office in Washington – will fail to transform America into a truly totalitarian regime.