For more than a century, the world has been caught in the grip of social engineers and political paternalists who are determined to either radically remake society along collectivist lines or to modify the existing society with regulatory and redistributionist policies that are in accordance with “social justice.” Both are based on false conceptions of man and society.
One of the leading voices who challenged twentieth-century social engineers and statists in the twentieth century was the Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises. In such important works as Socialism (1922), Liberalism: The Classical Tradition (1927), Critique of Interventionism (1929), Planning for Freedom (1952), and in his monumental treatise, Human Action (1949; 1966), Mises demonstrated the economic unworkability and unintended negative consequences that result from attempts to impose central planning on society, as well as the social quagmire brought about by introducing piecemeal regulations and interventions into the market economy.
But it was in his often-neglected work, Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution, that Ludwig von Mises systematically challenged the underlying philosophical premises behind many of the socialist and interventionist presumptions of the last one hundred years. This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Theory and History in 1957, so it seems worthwhile to appreciate Mises’s arguments and their continuing relevance for our own time.
The Elusive Search for Meaning and The Rise of Modern Science
The world is a confusing and uncertain place. We all live in communities with values, traditions, customs, and routines for daily life. We have grown up in them and tend to take certain aspects for granted. Our communities provide us with degrees of orienting certainty and predictability in our everyday affairs. Yet they still fail to answer a variety of “big questions.”
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