Best Paragraph I Read Today

10 June 2008 at 10:44 am 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

Money, money prices, market transactions, and economic calculation based upon them are the main targets of criticism. Loquacious sermonizers disparage Western civilization as a mean system of mongering and peddling. Complacency, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy exult in scorning the “dollar-philosophy” of our age. Neurotic reformers, mentally unbalanced literati, and ambitious demagogues take pleasure in indicting “rationality” and in preaching the gospel of the “irrational.” In the eyes of these babblers money and calculation are the source of the most serious evils. However, the fact that men have developed a method of ascertaining as far as possible the expediency of their actions and of removing uneasiness in the most practical and economic way does not prevent anybody from arranging his conduct according to the principle he considers to be right. The “materialism” of the stock exchange and of business accountancy does not hinder anybody from living up to the standards of Thomas a Kempis or from dying for a noble cause. The fact that the masses prefer detective stories to poetry and that it therefore pays better to write the former than the latter, is not caused by the use of money and monetary accounting. It is not the fault of money that there are gangsters, thieves, murderers, prostitutes, corruptible officials and judges. It is not true that honesty does not “pay.” It pays for those who prefer fidelity to what they consider to be right to the advantages which they could derive from a different attitude.

That’s Ludwig von Mises, writing on pp. 215-16 of Human Action (4th edition). Oh, how I love that man. I hereby pledge to use the phrase “mentally unbalanced literati” at least once per year.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mises never gets old | The Libertarians  |  10 June 2008 at 8:09 pm

    [...] Ahhhh…sometimes I wonder if Mises managed to say everything worth saying about economics (and say it better than anyone else) in his masterpiece Human Action. Peter Klein highlights one fantastic quote here. [...]

  • 2. Rafe Champion  |  11 June 2008 at 2:32 am

    Without wanting to detract from Mises as an economist, “Human Action” would be more helpful for interested outsiders with the first couple of hundred pages radically abbreviated to get a priorism out of the way and lead people into the economics before they give up in despair.

  • 3. Peter Klein  |  11 June 2008 at 8:21 am

    Rafe, for that reader, Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State is the book. It summarizes, synthesizes, and extends Mises’s economics without lengthy methodological discussion. The economics starts on page 1. Indeed, I’m immersed in the book at this very moment:

    http://mises.org/events/105

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