For more than a century the world has been caught in the grip of social engineers and political paternalists determined to either radically remake society from top to bottom in collectivist directions, or to use various government regulatory and redistributive policies to try to modify existing society into desired “social justice” forms and shapes. Both are based on false conceptions of man and society.
One of the leading voices challenging the social engineers and the interventionist-welfare 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 negative unintended consequences resulting from attempts to impose systems of socialist 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, and it seems, therefore, worthwhile to appreciate Mises’s arguments and their continuing relevance for our own time.
The Illusive Search for Meaning and Purpose in Life
The world is a confusing and uncertain place. While we may live in communities and societies the values, traditions, customs and routines of daily life of which we have grown up in and tend to take for granted, and which provide us with degrees of orienting certainty and predictability in our everyday affairs, they still fail to answer a variety of “big questions.”
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