Letter To Lew : On 30 Years Of The Mises Institute

I posted this on Mises.org in response to The First 30 Years of the Mises Institute

[I] was terribly afraid that you would not make this change in direction, and am both excited and pleased that you have decided to.

Rothbardian ethics specifically avoids the Protestant requirements for symmetry of information, and warrantee in any transaction, and Rothbard consistently avoids the treatment of norms as a commons – despite the necessity of property as a norm. Both of theses facets of Rothbardian thought permanently render Rothbardian ethics regressive and insufficient for the high-trust society that is the moral ideology of the american population. Hoppe has supplied some of the necessary solutions, but they require institutional changes that first require the support of the population’s moral sentiments. And only constant exposure to morally agreeable ideas will make them tolerate institutional change.

Ron Paul, whether intentionally or not, (I do not know) does not make the Rothbardian error in his promotion of libertarianism, and therefore renders social and moral code more acceptable to a broader audience of Americans – most of whom embrace the sentiments of the founders and some variant of the protestant ethic. Conservatives in particular see the morality of the normative commons as equal in importance to the rule of law. This is why Ron Paul’s message sells with the population more than Rothbard’s. Rothbard did give us Propertarian ethics and revisionist history, and the language we needed to talk about freedom. But his ethics is not tolerable by members of a high trust society, and libertarianism is only possible within a high trust society. Ron Paul’s ethics is tolerable, because implicitly, his message does not undermine the high-trust moral code.

I’ve felt your use of ideology, education, and technology was always superior to the actual ethical program it contained. Hopefully the ethical program (which people sense, even if they cannot articulate) when subject to the Ron Paul ethos, will change, so that the operational superiority of the Mises Institute will be matched by a philosophical and ethical program that will take us beyond the support of a tenth of the population, with MI as the well-funded and leading organization behind that change.

It’s also great to see Tom Woods put to full use, and that his confidence in himself and his ideas has finally taken hold – it comes across in everything he writes, says and does. I’m surprised and thrilled that you’ve brought in Napolitano. It would be helpful if we could recruit more time and effort from Bob Murphy – especially if he had some coaching on presentation of his arguments from Napolitano.

(I’ve been toying with the idea of using Karl Smith, to play the foil for our side, because he is the only honest liberal economist emerging from the current generation that is literate in both moral and economic ideas. He has and will engage with Murphy. But the problem is in creating the appropriate venue, and I have enough work on my plate right now.)

Anyway, all that said, congratulations on the change in direction. I”m one of the many people that owes an intellectual debt to MI.


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