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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 64 of the 1985 (3rd) edition of the late Ralph Raico’s translation of Ludwig von Mises’s great 1927 book, Liberalism:

The usual procedure adopted by the critic is to imagine how wonderful everything would be if only he had his own way. In his dreams he eliminates every will opposed to his own by raising himself, or someone whose will coincides exactly with his, to the position of absolute master of the world. Everyone who preaches the right of the stronger considers himself as the stronger. He who espouses the institution of slavery never stops to reflect that he himself could be a slave. He who demands restrictions on the liberty of conscience demands it in regard to others, and not for himself. He who advocates an oligarchic form of government always includes himself in the oligarchy, and he who goes into ecstasies at the thought of enlightened despotism or dictatorship is immodest enough to allot to himself, in his daydreams, the role of the enlightened despot or dictator, or, at least, to expect that he himself will become the despot over the despot or the dictator over the dictator. Just as no one desires to see himself in the position of the weaker, of the oppressed, of the overpowered, of the negatively privileged, of the subject without rights; so, under socialism, no one desires himself otherwise than in the role of the general director or the mentor of the general director.

DBx: Yes.

One of the distinguishing features of true liberalism is its recognition that to empower government to determine in any specific way the allocation of resources – that is, to empower the state to affect resource allocation beyond what’s required to protect everyone’s property and contract rights and, perhaps, also to supply a few genuinely public goods such as national defense – is to give to particular individuals the right and the power to pursue their preferred concrete ends while simultaneously denying to other individuals the right and ability to pursue their concrete ends.

The liberal doesn’t merely fear that such power will be abused. Of course it will be. The liberal also understands that such power inevitably corrupts those who possess it. And the liberal further recognizes that such power is unjust. Injustice inheres in the ability to obstruct some people’s pursuit of their concrete ends; injustice inheres in the ability to artificially enhance the ability of other people to achieve theirs.

The liberal is never sure that the ends that he or she has chosen for himself or herself are best. But the liberal is damn sure that he or she is in no position to wisely choose ends for others.

The liberal is truly humble, a trait that is often mistaken for either indifference or intellectual dullness. Yet the liberal’s refusal to interfere in Jones’s affairs doesn’t signal the liberal’s indifference to Jones’s well-being. Nor is it a sign of the liberal’s inability to dream up a beautiful theory of how his or her interference in other people’s affairs could work wonders. Instead, the liberal’s refusal to interfere in other people’s affairs signals – in addition to the liberal’s mature and civilized respect for the autonomy of other people – the liberal’s understanding that such interference is too likely to make not only the object of his or her interference worse off, but also other people worse off as well.

One further point: the liberal doesn’t wish to corrupt his or her own character by presuming to be so superior to others that he or she is entitled to impose his or her opinions and preferences on others.

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