Ludwig Von Mises Makes the Libertarian Case against “Free Love” (and Implicitly Against Birth Control)

UPDATE at end.

Huh.  So apparently the GOP is going all-in on the birth control stuff.  TPM: “Republicans will move forward with legislation by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that permits any employer to deny birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.”

I see the religious conservatives getting ready for this battle, but where are the libertarians?  Perhaps we need a refresher course on the libertarian case against female sexual autonomy and birth control.  For this, let’s go to our man Ludwig von Mises and his 1922 book Socialism.  The book is a full-frontal assault on all things socialist; one of the many cases he brings is against “free love” and for the traditional family.

Why?  He starts the case like this: “Proposals to transform the relations between the sexes have long gone hand in hand with plans for the socialization of the means of production.   Marriage is to disappear along with private property… Socialism promises not only welfare—wealth for all—but universal happiness in love as well.”

Corey Robin suggested I check out this book, and it is great.  I love this part, as it is very relevant for the Right today: “The arguments, sometimes unctuous and sometimes venomous, which are put forward by theologians and other moral teachers, are entirely inadequate as a reply to this programme.”  The socialists are coming with a plan to equalize gender relationships – and by making the wife an equal of the husband it is only a matter of time until the worker seeks to be the equal of the boss, and with sex itself freely shared among consenting equals how can we even maintain the idea of “private property”?  The theologians in charge of sex and the family are both (a) inadequate to stopping them and (b) kinda creepy about the whole sex thing to boot (Mises goes on at length about this).  The libertarians are going to need to man up on this.

I think it is fair to lump “free love” as he means it with birth control.  He writes Socialism in 1922, a year after Margaret Sanger founds the group that becomes Planned Parenthood (which she does after a decade of writing sex education for women columns in a variety of socialist and anarchist magazines while trying to evade arrest).  He doesn’t mention Sanger but he’s pretty obsessed with this book Woman and Socialism (“no other German socialist book was more widely read or more effective as propaganda than Bebel’s Woman and Socialism, which is dedicated above all to the message of free love”).

Let’s get some more quotes onto the internets and then encourage our libertarian friends to have at it.  Help that whole fusionist project by spending 2012 finding increasingly esoteric ways of denouncing birth control alongside the religious conservatives – the future of private property depends on it!  Mises:

So far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution. When, going beyond this, it attacks the institutions of social life under the impression that it will thus be able to remove the natural barriers, it is a spiritual child of Socialism. For it is a characteristic of Socialism to discover in social institutions the origin of unalterable facts of nature, and to endeavour, by reforming these institutions, to reform nature….

Free love is the socialist’s radical solution for sexual problems. The socialistic society abolishes the economic dependence of woman which results from the fact that woman is dependent on the income of her husband. Man and woman have the same economic rights and the same duties, as far as motherhood does not demand special consideration for the woman. Public funds provide for the maintenance and education of the children, which are no longer the affairs of the parents but of society. Thus the relations between the sexes are no longer influenced by social and economic conditions…

Just as the pseudo-democratic movement endeavours by decrees to efface natural and socially conditioned inequalities, just as it wants to make the strong equal to the weak, the talented to the untalented, and the healthy to the sick, so the radical wing of the women’s movement seeks to make women the equal of men….But the difference between sexual character and sexual destiny can no more be decreed away than other inequalities of mankind.

(Now if the GOP keeps on this they might lose by a wide-enough margin to allow for advancement on the universal preschool and expansive daycare fronts….)

UPDATE:

Check out dueling Mises quotes and interpretation in the comment section from Gene Callahan – “With the spread and progress of capitalism, birth control becomes a universal practice” – and Corey Robin (whose recent book on conservatives looks even stronger in light of these arguments by Mises) who points out that Mises isn’t talking in terms of woman’s autonomy but the husband as family owner: “In the market economy every individual is spontaneously intent upon not begetting children whom he could not rear without considerably lowering his family’s standard of life.”

Also Corey Robin goes to the text to lay out what Mises actually said on feminism, gender equality and marriage here in an important comment – one that lays out how committed Mises is to a project of maintaining a so-called natural inequality between genders and how, rather than a fad, it is essential to how he views his critique of socialism.

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79 Responses to Ludwig Von Mises Makes the Libertarian Case against “Free Love” (and Implicitly Against Birth Control)

  1. Bartleby says:

    Apparently we are about to discover whether Mencken was actually right when he predicted that nobody would ever go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

  2. Gene Callahan says:

    “I think it is fair to lump “free love” as he means it with birth control.”

    It might be fair, but it would be dead wrong. Mises was an enthusiastic supporter of birth control:

    “It is not the practice of birth control that is new, but merely the fact that it is more frequently resorted to. Especially new is the fact that the practice is no longer limited to the upper strata of the population, but is common to the whole population. For it is one of the most important social effects of capitalism that it deproletarianizes all strata of society. It raises the standard of living of the masses of the manual workers to such a height that they too turn into “bourgeois” and think and act like well-to-do burghers. Eager to preserve their standard of living for themselves and for their children, they embark upon birth control. With the spread and progress of capitalism, birth control becomes a universal practice. The transition to capitalism is thus accompa- nied by two phenomena: a decline both in fertility rates and in mortality rates. The average duration of life is prolonged.” — Human Action

    • lumnicence says:

      But that’s sort of the problem with the position he’s advocating in terms of free love. “For it is a characteristic of Socialism to discover in social institutions the origin of unalterable facts of nature, and to endeavour, by reforming these institutions, to reform nature”… but isn’t birth control precisely an attempt to reform nature, as it were?

      It seems an inconsistent position to advocate for an against what is “natural” ad hoc. The only manner in which both beliefs can be squared is in reference to an agenda. The agenda in this case happens to be private property, and whatever cases can be presented, appealing to whatever facts at hand (regardless of whether those facts contradict eachother upon close inspection). A more rigeourous approach would demand not that we take private property as essential, but rather as a function of what it aims to serve, which happens to be human happiness.

  3. Bob Roddis says:

    Mr. Konczal acts up this way because he wants to meticulously avoid understanding even basic Austrian School concepts while smearing its practitioners because it’s the hip thing to do. I fail to find the problem with this quoted statement:

    So far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution..

    There it is. What’s the big deal?

    While we are discussing the allegedly strange ideas held by famous economists, how about this one:

    Eugenics was no quickly passing fad. The Eugenics Society reached its peak, in terms of membership, during the 1930s, and the cusp of the following decade saw the zenith of its prestige. The economist John Maynard Keynes served on the society’s governing council and was its director from 1937 to 1944. Once again, this was no casual hobby. As late as 1946 Keynes was still describing eugenics as ‘the most important and significant branch of sociology’. Working alongside Keynes at this time as the editor of Eugenics Review was Richard Titmuss, soon afterwards to become an influential professor at the London School of Economics working on social policy, and who would ultimately be dubbed ‘the high priest of the welfare state’.

    All that and gay pedophilia too.

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/5571423/part_4/how-eugenics-poisoned-the-welfare-state.thtml

    • Captain Howdy says:

      Shorter Bob Roddis: I’m not exactly sure what Mises meant, but look what a naughty boy Keynes was.

      P.S. All Austrian School concepts are basic.

  4. Corey Robin says:

    Given that Mike’s point was the connection between sexual autonomy for women and birth control, I don’t think the quote Gene cites — not when it’s read in context — actually undermines what Mike is trying to get. If you go onto read after the passage in question — the whole discussion is on 667-672 of Human Action (Volume 3 if you have the four volume edition) — Mises makes it very clear that it’s the father/husband who’s making the decision as to whether he wants to reproduce. And he’s making that decision as a market actor, balancing his sexual desire against what the market dictates he can support (in terms of the number of children). Mises writes (on 672): “In the market economy every individual is spontaneously intent upon not begetting children whom he could not rear without considerably lowering his family’s standard of life. Thus the growth of population beyond the optimum size as determined by the supply of capital available and the state of technological knowledge is checked. The interest of each individual coincide with those of all other individuals.” (In addition, and tangentially, Mises refers to abortion as one of several “egregious and repulsive practices” that include infanticide.) He never speaks of birth control as an advance for women’s autonomy, and he never once says it’s the woman who will be deciding it. It’s always the man, and the larger context in which he speaks of the issue is that it has resolved the Malthusian conundrum of population size versus scarcity. There’s absolutely nothing to suggest that he’d be in favor of women using birth control outside the confines of marriage — i.e., free love — or on their own initiative or for the sake of their own desire.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Corey, certainly it is true that Mises thought men were “naturally” the head of the household. (But NB: he is quite explicitly for full political and legal equality for women: what he was against were schemes to eliminate what he saw as natural differences.) But look at your quote: ““In the market economy every individual is spontaneously intent upon not begetting children whom he could not rear without considerably lowering his family’s standard of life.”

      *Every* individual. “He” and “his” were merely the standard pronouns of the time for a man *or* a woman. I am quite certain that if we introduced Mises to a case where it was the woman acting, as he saw it, prudentially, to constrain an uncontrolled man from siring more children than he could support, he would have approved.

      But yes, he saw men as being more naturally dominant in this regard. That was not a point I was disputing. The point was: did he oppose birth control? And the answer is a definitive no.

      • Corey Robin says:

        I too wondered whether he was using the generic “he” and “his” but given the discussion of the patriarch in the family in *Socialism* — the entire chapter, not just the passages Mike cites — I find it hard to read it here as simply a generic pronoun. That, and the fact that nowhere does he speak of it as an advance for woman’s autonomy or anything like that. He is as committed to male dominance in the family — I agree with you that he support legal equality for women, but it’s not simply “natural” male superiority he endorses; it’s the superiority of the man in the family, governing his wife, in a way in which natural superiority becomes a kind of juridical (for lack of a better word; it’s not really the right one but I can’t think of a better one) authority — as he is to acting in accordance with the constraints of the market. It’s awfully hard for me to imagine the scenario you describe within Mises’s framework. Which is why I think it’s difficult to separate the question of birth control from male domination. You’re right that Mike could have formulated this more precisely in his post, but on the larger issue he was raising — women’s autonomy in connection with birth control — I do think he’s got Mises’s position right.

      • If the point of this conversation was really so mundane as to whether or not he supported some version of the combination of the words “birth” and “control,” then I don’t think it’d be inspiring quite so much energy and attention. Rather, people understand that what we’re really talking about here is whether he supported the principle of sexual agency and equality for women; and on *that* point, the material presented in this post and comment thread thus far strongly incline me to conclude: No, he did not.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Elias, if the point wasn’t that Mises was against birth control, then why did Mike say that was the point? As far as Mises being “opposed” to sexual agency for women, he could not have possibly been so: a main point of his 800-page Human Action is that no human can possibly dodge agency in everything he / she does.

        I am *NOT* trying to claim that Mises was a 21st century progressive in his attitude towards women. He certainly was not. I am just trying to give the guy a fair shake. I am sure you, Corey, and Mike would all still reject his views, rightly understood. But please get him right, THEN reject him!

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “women’s autonomy in connection with birth control — I do think he’s got Mises’s position right.”

        Perhaps you are right. I haven’t read *Socialism* in a decade. This theme, of natural male dominance in the family, does not appear, as far as I remember, in Human Action. So it may be something he de-emphasized as he proceeded.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      And Corey, just so you know what you’re dealing with: I did my PhD thesis on Oakeshott. “Keeping the little guy down” is my main weekend hobby!

    • Mike says:

      I think Corey is getting what I’m getting at here, which was the control of the choice and timing of children as a necessary condition of woman’s freedom and equality. That husbands can use birth control to run their families more efficiently isn’t quite the same vibe.

      I didn’t find the Human Action stuff while doing a quick search on Mises and the family and free love – instead I found a lot of stuff (like this) saying Mises was correct that attacks from the left will attack the family in their first salvos. And more stuff about the natural hierarchies that women face and only socialists would want to try and break.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        This is the gist of Rockwell’s explanation of Mises’ position:

        The family, like the structure of the market economy, is a product not of policy but of voluntary association, made necessary by biological and social realities. Capitalism reinforced marriage and family because it insisted on consent in all social relations.

        The family and capitalism thus share a common institutional and ethical foundation. By attempting to abolish them, the socialists would replace a society based on contract with one based on violence. The result would be total societal collapse.

        Libertarians insist upon voluntary consensual relationships. The suggestion that there is something sinister lurking below the surface here is preposterous. Socialist, Keynesian and all of the other statist regimes insist upon upsetting those voluntary relationships by force using the power of the state and the police. That’s the essence of the leftist vision although 99.99% of leftists will refuse to think that through to its obvious result. It’s not all that complicated.

      • Mike Huben says:

        Capitalism has NEVER “insisted on consent in all social relations.” Property has never been consensual. And of course that’s why capitalism reinforced slavery the same way it reinforced archaic male-dominated marriage: slaves and wives were property.

        Contrary to libertarians, capitalism is not libertarian.

      • Wonks Anonymous says:

        Mike Huben, slaves are alienable. I’m not aware of wife-selling being a common feature of western civilization.

      • pictish says:

        @Wonks Anonymous:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife_selling

        see also The Mayor of Casterbridge.

  5. David H says:

    Yet another example of completely missing the point.
    As much as you would like to believe otherwise, the issue is not birth control, the issue is the government forcing someone to pay for something to which they are morally (or religiously) opposed. And for any libertarian, even those who believe in “free love”, that is a Bad Idea.

    • Stephen Frug says:

      Ah, so pacifists don’t have to pay the proportion of their taxes that go the military: good to know.

      • Andrew says:

        You got there a few minutes ahead of me.

        In an alternate universe, American Christians march behind the slogan “he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword” to urge the end of defense spending.

      • David H says:

        The only legitimate function of government is to protect the people’s fundamental rights (life, liberty, and property). The military is intended to be an institution by which those rights are protected, the government gets a monopoly on that protection, and we all pay taxes for that protection. That’s the deal here — other countries may have a different set of rules.

        Are you suggesting that forcing people to pay for contraception (or in fact any medical supplies or procedures), is a legitimate function of government?

  6. dakinikat says:

    Didn’t really research that too well, did you?

    http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/sex/

    Rationalization of sexual intercourse involves the rationalization of proliferation. Methods of rationalizing the increase of progeny were adopted which were independent of abstention from copulation. People resorted to the egregious and repulsive practices of exposing or killing infants and of abortion. Finally they learned to perform the sexual act in such a way that no pregnancy results.

    Social cooperation is impossible if people give rein to the natural impulse of proliferation. In restricting procreation man adjusts himself to the natural conditions of his existence. The rationalization of the sexual passions is an indispensable condition of civilization and societal bonds. Its abandonment would in the long run not increase but decrease the numbers of those surviving, and would render life for everyone as poor and miserable as it was many thousands of years ago for our ancestors.

    It is not the practice of birth control that is new, but merely the fact that it is more frequently resorted to. Especially new is the fact that the practice is no longer limited to the upper strata of the population, but is common to the whole population. For it is one of the most important social effects of capitalism that it deproletarianizes all strata of society. It raises the standard of living of the masses of manual workers to such a height that they too turn into “bourgeois” and think and act like well-to-do burghers. Eager to preserve their standard of living for themselves and their children, they embark upon birth control. With the spread and progress of capitalism, birth control becomes a universal practice. The transition to capitalism is thus accompanied by two phenomena: a decline both in fertility rates and in mortality rates. The average duration of life is prolonged.

  7. This may just be a difference of schools within the Austrian tradition but I find the difference between Mises “liberal” Austrianism and current “neoliberal” Austrianism kind of interesting. Nowadays Austrians are trying to sell rational economic decisions and markets as the basis of a utopinan absence of power brought about by a world of perfect competition. Mises on the other hand seems a lot more comfortable talking about how economic relationships are based on force. “If we let out women get uppity next thing you know workers will think they have a right to demand higher wages and that would be calamitous”

    • Bob Roddis says:

      There is no advocacy of “perfect competition” by Austrians. Ever.
      There is no advocacy of “economic relationships based on force” by Austrians or libertarians ever.
      There is no suggestion by libertarians or Austrians that females have or should have any lesser rights than males. Ever.
      If this is all you guys have, you’ve lost the “debate”.

      • Given that in your reply to Mike above you posted a “expliation” of Mises that said the opposite of what he actually wrote I’m going to take your claims here with a grain of salt.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Please note that Andrew Bossie is “a Graduate Student at the CUNY Graduate Center. I have taught economics at a couple CUNY campuses”.

      Amazing. He’s only the 15,125th government college “economics” instructor with no familiarity whatsoever with even basic Austrian School concepts.

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  9. Bob Roddis says:

    Speaking of funny things said in the olden days by famous people and as we look to Abe Lincoln for solutions to our current problems, let us be reminded of Abe’s support for the proposed Corwin Amendment to the constitution during his first inaugural address:

    I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service*. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

    By all means, let’s amend the Constitution so that slavery is enshrined forever. Thanks, Abe.

    For the record, I do suggest that there was an avowed sinister motive expressed here.

    http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres31.html

    *aka “slaves”

  10. Andrew says:

    I’ve been reading various books on the history of Europe from the 16th through 18th centuries, and what becomes very apparent in books like John Brewers’ “Sinews of Power” and Christopher Clark’s “Iron Kingdom” is that the ultimate opponents of centralization and the growth of efficiency in state bureaucracies was always the local aristocracy and landlords. Now, Brewer’s book was about the growth of the British state during wartime while Clark’s book was about the growth of the German nation-state – but the people who opposed the projects of centralization were always the landed aristocracy. The landed aristocracy wanted to preserve their domination over their domains, they didn’t really care about freedom of the individual until the central state started trying to rationalize administrative state functions to be more efficient in order to increase national power.
    The landed aristocracy were the ultimate source of using disingenuous arguments about local autonomy of the individual from the coercion of the central state. I believe that Libertarianism is ultimately descended from this “country ideology” of the landed aristocracy, as John Brewer called it.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      A major thrust of libertarian thought is to provide private property rights and the strict enforcement of those rights to the most powerless people in all societies. That way, such people would be protected from both governmental and non-governmental criminals and they would be physically safe. The “progressive” assault on private property and contract rights held by impoverished people has directly resulted in the horrific poverty and barbarism that marks the socialist third world today.

      You don’t know what you are talking about.

  11. Bob Roddis says:

    Even more funny things said by famous people!

    Knowing that Keynes was a big fan of eugenics puts an even more sinister twist on his belief that his system would be better suited to a totalitarian state. No kidding, Maynard. From the German introduction to “The General Theory”:

    The theory of aggregated production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state [eines totalen Staates] than the theory of production and distribution of a given production put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire.

    http://tmh.floonet.net/articles/foregt.html

    When you are robbing purchasing power from people through dilution of the fiat money supply in order to lower their real wages without them realizing what hit them, you can shoot them if they complain.

  12. Andrew says:

    @Bob Roddis. I tire of Austrians talking about how everyone misunderstands them. How about this: if you want respect from the wider world, then you have to point to instances in which specific implications of Austrian economic theory were vindicated by events in the wider world. So, for example, if Austrian economics had predicted that inflation would stay low despite low interest rates and large deficits, then people would give Austrian economics more respect.

    Or, if Austrian economics had predicted that Treasury Bond yields would keep going down and down, then you’d get more respect. However, what we get instead is declarations of “Armageddon is coming!” every year – it’s Austrian economics, more than any other economic intellectual school, that gives credence to the old joke about how “economists predicted 20 out of the last 3 recessions.”

    Also, too many Austrians give apologetics for the more disgusting things that people like Von Mises and Rothbard said. If Austrians instead said “their views on X are disgusting, but they were a product of their time. Either way, we should keep what is useful in Austrian theory instead of discarding all of it.”, then Austrians would get respect. But you guys don’t.

    People who adhere to Austrian political economy tend to be a bit too closely aligned with people who glorify the Confederacy, for example. That makes those who aren’t true believers a bit antsy…

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Who “glorifies” the Confederacy? The story I’ve heard for 40 years was that the north was a hotbed of the most vile racism too and while the south seceded over slavery concerns, the north invaded in order to collect tariffs. In fact, that was the “progressive” version I heard in my college course on the civil war back in 1972. Of course, back then, “progressives” didn’t see the US government as a source of good in the world. And they were right.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      For the record, I never thought that major inflation was imminent in the short run after the 2008 bust because a) there was going to be so much asset value collapse; 2) people were not going to be borrowing; 3) banks were not going to be lending; and 4) the dollar was still the world’s reserve currency.

      Super low interest rates impair economic calculation and investment so normal investments are not safe. In a situation where everyone and everything is under attack by the government, government bonds appear to be the safest bet and can offer low rates. I also thought the super low rates and the ridiculous deficits would impair the recovery. They did. Even with all the dis-inflation going on, the government’s phony [too low] inflation number was 3.2% for 2011 and much more inflation is probably coming in 2012. The inflation rate is geometric, by the way.

      Things have gone pretty much how I predicted and I’m an Austrian. Which does not change the fact that you still have no familiarity with even basic Austrian concepts.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      [S]cholarship on the Civil War has advanced considerably beyond what you learned in college in 1972

      Right. We now know that Lincoln was still trying to come up with a scheme to ship the black people back to Africa up to the time of his assassination.

      Let’s look to Lincoln for guidance, eh Konczal?

  13. Andrew says:

    @Bob Roddis. Notice that noone who admires Keynes endorses eugenicist views of Keynes. They say “what Keynes thought on eugenics was disgusting, but those views were popular among upper class folk in his time. That does not discount whatsoever Keynes’ theory of liquidy traps, no matter what he says on eugenics.” Followers of Von Mises and Rothbard, on the other hand take the apologetics route…

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Keynes’ views on eugenics are relevant because they express the core values of the “progressive” mind and movement: The superior elect attempting to run the lives of average people. You know, technocratic government? Government by experts? “Progressive” government?

      We know average people cannot run their own affairs because when they engage in free trade, the whole thing allegely breaks down into structural unemployment that can only be remedied by much smarter all-knowing Keynesian technocrats. Similarly, they cannot be allowed to breed without firm and all-knowing technocratic guidance. And it works best in a totalitarian state. Keynes said so.

      • S. Z. says:

        Similarly, they cannot be allowed to breed without firm and all-knowing technocratic guidance.

        Psst… it’s the right, not the left, who wants to deny people the use of contraceptives.

  14. figleaf says:

    “So far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution.”

    I too am willing to give Mises partial benefit of the doubt. In the first sentence, below, it’s pretty clear he’s using the word “liberal” in the neoclassical sense rather than the progressive-political sense. And so he’s not speaking against it: feminism… advocates peaceful and free evolution.”

    In the scope of 1920s thought that puts him to the left of Susan B. Anthony and roughly on par with, say, Emma Goldman or Jane Addams-Hull. And to that extent the Rick Santorums, Phyllis Schlaffleys, Focus on the Family directors, and even Newt Gingriches of the world would bitterly oppose him.

    “When, going beyond this, it attacks the institutions of social life under the impression that it will thus be able to remove the natural barriers, it is a spiritual child of Socialism. For it is a characteristic of Socialism to discover in social institutions the origin of unalterable facts of nature, and to endeavour, by reforming these institutions, to reform nature….”

    By the same token, based on the preceding quote when he says “socialist” I’m pretty sure he’s referring to the kind of “when we act, we create our own reality” social dissociation that Stalin’s and Hitler’s admirers said they were advancing in the 1920s rather than the way, say, the Danes govern themselves today. To that extent almost all contemporary progressives would likely be pretty comfortable with Mises as well.

    If he felt any other way it would be difficult to square his advocacy of feminist autonomy and egalitarianism against what otherwise would have to be a simultaneous defense of institutions that directly opposed (and still oppose) that autonomy and agency.

    figleaf

  15. andy says:

    @Bob Roddis. DAHAHAHAHAHA. The third world is poor because of socialist policies? Really??? Nothing about colonial domination of Africa and Asia by the United States and other European countries? I mean, sure, there are countries in Africa and Asia that suffered great poverty due to socialist policies, but note that the socialists never would’ve had strong support if it wasn’t for colonialism, etc. I’m sorry, but as someone who is a minority, please do not tell me the history of my people. You Austrians of all people don’t have any standing to talk about history, as selective as you are in what you highlight while ignoring much more. So please, save me the invocations of Third World poverty, because that poverty comes from elsewhere, not your traditional bogeymen. And also note that those countries in the Third World that did manage to climb out of poverty did not do so by following Austrian prescriptions – look at Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and now China and Vietnam – they probably do the exact opposite of Austrian policies. So please, don’t ever talk about the Third World again. Focus on getting the history of Europe and the U.S. right first

  16. John Emerson says:

    In Gary Becker’s terms, birth control is to be used when the manager of the child-factory feels that the child market is not strong enough to justify the production of an additional child-unit. Otherwise he would borrow money in order to increase production.

  17. MKS says:

    Socialism and Progressivism depend upon the elitist assumptions underlying Eugenics.

    If the masses were sufficiently compassionate, they would voluntarily help the underprivileged and disadvantaged, and there would be no need for governmental force to redistribute wealth. Governments could concentrate on defense and security. Since this does not happen swiftly enough for the socialists and progressives, they assert a small number of powerful individuals with a superior sense of “fairness” to forcibly redistribute the products of everyone else’s labors.

    Compassion is not real unless it is voluntary. We have had enough of compulsion disguised as compassion.

    • S. Z. says:

      If the masses were sufficiently compassionate, they would voluntarily help the underprivileged and disadvantaged, and there would be no need for governmental force to redistribute wealth.

      For examples, see: Gilded Age America, Dickensian England, Potato famine Ireland, and British India.

    • halfspin says:

      If the masses were sufficiently peaceful, there would be no need for government to concentrate on defense and security. Peace is not real unless it is voluntary. We have had enough of compulsion disguised as peace.

  18. Gene Callahan says:

    Mike, I just don’t see Corey and I are “dueling”: I freely admit that Mises was not a feminist! I was just pointing out he was not opposed to birth control.

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  20. wwoolsey@comcast.net says:

    By “free love” Mises understood a policy of outlawing marriage. The “radical feminists” he criticized are those who favored the abolition of marriage. And by socialism, he had in mind hte complete abolision of private property and markets. Everyone lives on communes and shares. Children are raised by the community as a whole, and people have sex with one another, and no one knows father knows his child. He thinks this is a bad idea.

    He explicitly attacks patriarchy. He considered it an element of the “society of violence.” There are several pages where he discusses how women were treated as property. None of it is positive.

    He thought “modern” marriage was a contract between equals–a man and a women. Initially, it is about love, but then companionship and children.

    He thinks the development of women’s individuality and personality is a good thing, but just difficult given the burdens of motherhood. I think he is focused on this in response to the radical feminists who are those he says want to abolish marriage and support “free love.” In his view, they are correct to see the difficulty in women developing individuality and personality, but in his view, abolishing marriage is not a good approach.

    He thought that marriage between equals evolved over time due to women having property rights despite being married.

    Oddly enough, he defends capitalism against the charge that it leads to prostitution both on the ground that prostitution pre-existed capitalism, but also because prostitution was greatly encouraged by having young men in military service, which peace loving liberals oppose.

    • Corey Robin says:

      This gives a not terribly complete, and at points inaccurate, picture of Mises’s argument. First, Mises exempts from his account the “exceptional” man of genius — again, always a man — who cannot abide by the dull terms of a marriage. So while he insists on marriage with its obligations as the lot of the masses, men of genius are not, and cannot be, bound by its claims. Woman cannot, no matter what, enjoy such exemptions: “because the functions of sex have the first claim upon woman, genius and the greatest achievements have been denied her.” So already we have a sense of the unequal distribution of rights and responsibiltiies in a marriage.

      Second, I’m not sure where you get the idea that he thinks free love is about the legal prohibition of marriage. He says, “Free love is the socialists’ radical solution for sexual problems. The socialistic society abolishes the economic dependence of woman which results from the fact that woman is dependent on the income of her husband…Public funds provide for the maintenance and education of the children, which are no longer the affairs of the parents but of society. Thus the relations between the sexes are no longer influenced by social and economic conditions….The family disappears and society is confronted with separate individuals only. Choice in love becomes completely free.” He’s very clear that the program he has in mind is one where the state makes women the economic equals of men such that they are no longer dependent on men. That to him is the great evil of socialism in terms of gender politics. It actually enables women to act like the libertarian actors he imagines men to be. Not by abolishing marriage but my instituting economic equality.

      Which brings me to the third point. Mises nowhere in this text wants women to develop their full and independent personalities. In fact, he explicitly attacks feminism for seeking to do just that: “They would like to abolish marriage and family life so that women may have at least all that liberty which seems compatible with childbearing. Unencumbered by husband and children, woman is to move freely, act freely, and live for herself and the development of her personality.” Not only does he think that’s not possible — “Her destiny is completely circumscribed by sex…woman must exhaust herself as lover and as mother in the service of the sexual instinct.” “It is not marriage which keeps woman inwardly unfree, but the fact that her sexual character demands surrender to a man…” — but he think it’s not desirable. For to do so would entail a woman “renouncing either the most profound womanly joy, the joy of motherhood” for the sake of “the more masculine development of her personality.”

      Last, far from him embracing the abolition of legal and political liabilities and impediments to women’s advance, he argued that those impediments and liabilities were no longer relevant. “The small differences that still exist in private law are of no practical significance. Whether, for example, the law obliges the wife to obey her husband is not particularly important [!]; as long as marriage survives one party will have to follow the other and whether husband or wife is stronger is certainly not a matter which paragraphs of the legal code can decide. Nor is it any longer of great significance that the political rights of women are restricted, that women are denied the vote and the right to hold public office….The right to occupy public office is denied women less by the legal limitations of their rights than by the peculiarities of their sexual character.”

      Mises’s commitment to inequality between the genders is profound, not incidental or contingent, not merely a reflection of the “views of his time.” Remember, this is the fourth chapter in a book about — and against — socialism, which he claims is the dominant view of the day. He may be wrong about that, but he clearly believes he is arguing a minority position against a dominant orthodoxy. That dominant orthodoxy includes, by his account, this crazy theory of women’s equality. So in voicing his commitment to women’s inequality, he’s not lazily refracting the opinion of his times — at least not according to him, he’s not; he’s actively polemicizing, and mobilizing heterodox arguments, arguments he believes he’s come to on his own, against the dominant norm.

      • Corey Robin says:

        Sorry, just one clarification: that quote where he’s talking about feminists seeking to abolish marriage — he doesn’t mean it in the legal sense, he means it in the sense that they no longer feel like they have to get married in order to have children, etc. Because they are economically emancipated from their dependence on men.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        Of course, we all know that Mises’ old fashioned (to us) musings on women back in 1920 have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with libertarian thought and policy proposals for the past 40 years, which has tended towards the position of people like Wendy McElroy. You all know this, right?

        http://server.theadvocates.org/celebrities/wendy-mcelroy.html

        Not that there would anything wrong with a voluntary association of people who wish to live “the old fashioned way”. You “progressives” just do not get the voluntary thing, do you? You’d have no role in a free society as social and economic overseers and you’d have no one to bully around with your special wisdom and purity, which would drive you “progressives” nuts.

      • I just want to point out that I did acknowledge above that libertarian/Austrian views have changes since Mises and you got angry about that too.

      • figleaf says:

        @Bob Roddis: ‘You “progressives’ just do not get the voluntary thing, do you?”

        Seriously? You think there are “progressives” who think it should be… what?… illegal to live in a single-earner family with a stay-at-home partner?

        I think the whole point of the debate here is whether or not libertarians believed society should be biased in law and convention to a point that women should be denied social and economic opportunities strictly in order that they can be leveraged into providing un- or under-compensated labor to men.

        As you say, in the last 40 years virtually not credible progressive or libertarian has believed that even though it was common currency for both prior to that. But I’m equally sure that neither progressives nor libertarians believe that men and women should be prohibited from making that arrangement between each other voluntarily.

        figleaf

  21. Pingback: Ludwig von Mises Approved of Birth Control, But So What? | Libertarios of America

  22. A real libertarian accepts women selling fetuses as readily as they accept men selling kidneys. As long as the thing in your body requires a host, and you are that host, you are the owner.

    If some claims to be a libertarian, and they dream up a fancy way of being legally -pro-life, as in form a state authority and use the power of said authority to protect fetuses, everything else they say about private property reeks of rank amateurism.

    Think of it this ay, imagine a woman with a nuclear bomb and a baby she intends to abort.

    That is where rights come from.

    The moment everyone else CHOOSES to leave her the fuck alone because they are afraid of being irradiated for generations to come – she has right to abortion.

    For those concerned about private property and freedom from state interference, for millennium to come, the lancing of a boil, even if it is a potential human being – they’ll eat it like good caitalist soldiers.

  23. herrnaphta says:

    Mises’ commitment to gender inequality has hardly faded from the libertarian movement, at least the corners of it that lay claim to his lineage. See, for example,

    Murray Rothbard – ‘Against Women’s Lib’ http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard4.html and ‘Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature’ http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard31.html

    Gary North, who advocates stoning to death loose women and children who talk back to their parents (seriously), and who is regularly published at lewrockwell.com http://reason.com/archives/1998/11/01/invitation-to-a-stoning

    Hans-Hermann Hoppe condemning free love and ‘non-family based lifestyles’ in much the same terms as Mises: http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/58561.html and arguing that the authority of the family is a bulwark against the state: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/hermann-hoppe3.html

    These are important figures in contemporary Austrian thought, and they give voice to the same opposition to gender equality that Mises did.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      1. How neat. A Marxist criticizing libertarians. How many millions of black people have Marxists slaughtered? How many people have been killed by libertarians? Zero.

      2. Libertarianism is based upon the non-aggression principle (NAP), something a Marxist wouldn’t understand. Why wouldn’t we all want the racists and nut-case haters to practice the NAP? “I hate all you blacks, Jews and gays, so I’m not inviting you to my Super Bowl Party!” (As opposed to murdering or imprisoning them).

      3. What one does with one’s freedom is not the concern of libertarian philosophy which is SOLELY concerned with enforcement of the NAP. One can become a Calvinist or a gay porn star. (Whether you have any friends thereafter as the result of your behavior is your problem). The nonsense spouted by herrnaphta sounds suspiciously like an hysterical leftist version of something from Santorum or O’Reilly about libertarians promoting loose morals.

    • Cummings. says:

      You have to remember that the modern Austrian movement came from
      the conservative to orthodox wing of Ashkenazi unlike the Rand
      wing which was much more “liberal”. They believe family is
      against the state, but ‘traditional socialists” think the family is
      the bullwork against market economy and its anti-nature ways.
      The first anti-feminist called himself “socialist”

  24. Pingback: Quickies: 02/15/2012 - Queereka

  25. Pingback: Links 2/15/12 | Mike the Mad Biologist

  26. Mike B) says:

    Women have been seen as the property of men for eons, at least since class dominated civilisation struck root in the aftermath of the discovery of beer.

    http://news.yahoo.com/sip-ancestors-true-story-civilization-stumbling-debt-beer-170000067.html

    Feminism challenges the freedom of men to own their wives in monogamous and polygamous marriage forms. Fair enough. Women are humans too. Feminists get laws passed which upset the natural balance of nature. This is obviously wrong and full of socialistic nonsense about freedom being about mutual solidarity as opposed to competition i.e. I win; you lose. After all, if we were naturally compassionate why would slavery have ever existed? The freedom to own property and excludes others from its use under pain of imprisonment or death by the State (which causes happiness) is a liberty which the coercive State takes away from us with its unnecessary laws. Rebels against the State, the libertarians promote the freedom of the naturally superior to own the labour of those whom they so graciously allow to be employed. If some women in the modern age are allowed to accumulate the labour of those whom they employ then they should be allowed to be as free as the men they compete with in the marketplace of commodity sale.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Under a libertarian system, all of you commies would be completely free to share your resources and live a full socialist feminist existence even when living in non-contiguous locations. All of your assets could be pooled in one giant bank account and you could produce everything you want for each other. You would never have to come in contact with business people or traditional types. No one would be allowed to invade your space or steal or impair your resources. Pollution would be a violation of the NAP. You wouldn’t be taxed to pay for war or crony capitalism. So, what’s the problem? You’re all hysterical about nothing.

      • Cummings. says:

        “Libertarians” are by nature, totalitarian. Your capital fetishes and need to destroy countries and peoples are well founded.

        Your impact on “commies” is noted as well, as private business showed the Russians how to create ‘state capitalism” in the 1920’s.

      • Mike B) says:

        You’re hysterical…haw, haw. With common ownership of the collective product of labour, there would be no Capital. Capital is a social relation. I can see it now, all the businessmen wandering off into the wilderness. “Now, who is going to be the wage labourer? We need wage labour in order to accumulate capital.” Nobody raises their hand. Hmmm…what now, MacDuff? Robinson Crusoe needs his man Friday and we can’t coerce him into it.

        Meanwhile a free association of producers shares the wealth on the basis of how much socially necessary labour time they put into the social store of goods and services. And they who do not put socially necessary labour time into said store can go fend for themselves outside in their non coercive wilderness. No worries, mate.

  27. Pingback: Love for Sale: Birth Control from Marx to Mises « Corey Robin

  28. wetcasements says:

    Libertarians are adorable.

  29. Cummings. says:

    Mises quote could be alterated: Market economy has caused women to rebel against the natural order and we need socialism to restore it!!! John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle would agree.

    Mises’s problem was he was a conservative Jew, trying to rationalize this “market economy and conservatism” together doesn’t work. We see “Libertarians” still struggling with this.

    In many ways, the rise of the state is more natural than the market economy, since the state is a important feature of all traditional orders.

  30. Fred says:

    You were caught bullshitting everyone, again.

  31. Bob Roddis says:

    Thanks for all the detailed dissertations on Austrian Economics. It is amazing how hostile you lefties are about something that you haven’t the slightest familiarity with.

    Brian Dohery smacks down Konczal here:

    http://tinyurl.com/7fmfvq8

    James E. Miller smacks down Konczal here:

    http://millergd.blogspot.com/2012/02/mises-and-free-love.html

    Even DeLong is embarrassed by Konczal:

    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2012/02/delong-smackdown-watch-gene-callahan-edition.html

    Good work.

  32. Pingback: Libertarian Ethics in a Family Way « Marxist Marginalia

  33. Pingback: “Liberty for the few – Slavery, in every form, for the mass!”: the Deep Roots of the Birth Control Freakout « Ph.D. Octopus

  34. Pingback: Libertarians get medieval on women « Women Born Transsexual

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