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All Things Marx and Socialism at Liberty Fund

Summary:
A couple of items at the Liberty Fund website that might be of interest to BHLers. This month’s “Liberty Matters” is on Marx, with the main essay by Virgil Storr, and responses by me, Dave Prychitko, and Pete Boettke, as well as David Hart of Liberty Fund.  General discussion will follow those responses. I also have an Econlib feature this month discussing Mises’s Socialism as it nears its 100th anniversary. The piece on Socialism focuses on Mises’s theory of social evolution, which relies on the centrality of the division of labor to generate peaceful cooperation. This move from violence to contract he later referred to as “The Law of Association,” viewing it as an extension of Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage and trade. This point is nicely illustrated in the book’s

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A couple of items at the Liberty Fund website that might be of interest to BHLers.

  1. This month’s “Liberty Matters” is on Marx, with the main essay by Virgil Storr, and responses by me, Dave Prychitko, and Pete Boettke, as well as David Hart of Liberty Fund.  General discussion will follow those responses.
  2. I also have an Econlib feature this month discussing Mises’s Socialism as it nears its 100th anniversary.

The piece on Socialism focuses on Mises’s theory of social evolution, which relies on the centrality of the division of labor to generate peaceful cooperation. This move from violence to contract he later referred to as “The Law of Association,” viewing it as an extension of Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage and trade. This point is nicely illustrated in the book’s chapter on love and marriage.

This theme of the evolution from violence to contract is nicely illustrated in his chapter on “The Social Order and the Family.” There he contrasts the nature of marriage in “the age of violence” to marriage in “the age of contract.” Where marriage was a reflection of male power and where women were essentially the property of the men they married, marriage was a relationship characterized by both inequality and unhappiness, especially for women. Mises argues that the love and sexual components of marriage that we take for granted in the age of contract were not possible in an age of violence. Romantic love and marriage were largely distinct during this period, and only when marriage became about consent and contract between equals could loved-based marriage become a reality. Mises (page 78) puts it this way:

    The characteristic of love, the overvaluing of the object, cannot exist when women occupy the position of contempt which they occupy under the principle of violence. For under this system she is merely a slave, but it is the nature of love to conceive her as a queen.

One of liberalism’s greatest accomplishments was the gradual extension of equal rights to all humans, and in treating women as equals under the law, liberalism advanced the feminist cause. Feminism understood as equality before the law is, he argues, “nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution” (page 87). As women became the legal equals of men, and as marriage became contractual like so much else, love and sexual desire took their modern place in marriage.2 What is most striking about this argument is how far ahead of its time it was. Sociologists into the early 21st century were still making the argument that it was the liberal and market orders that enabled love to conquer marriage as if it were news. Mises saw this point almost a century earlier. This discussion has two purposes in Mises’s larger argument. First, it shows that capitalism and liberalism were responsible for many of the social advances of the modern era, rather than being the cause of any number of social problems. Second, it sets up his fear that socialism will return us to an age of violence and undo all of that progress.

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Author: Steve Horwitz
Steve Horwitz
Steven "Steve" Horwitz (born 7 February 1964) is an American economist of the Austrian School. Horwitz was born in Detroit, Michigan to Ronald and Carol Horwitz. He was raised in Oak Park, Michigan and graduated from Berkley High School in Berkley, Michigan in 1981. He graduated cum laude with an A.B. in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1985, where he was also active with several libertarian student groups and where he wrote and performed with the Sunday Funnies/Comedy Company sketch comedy group.

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