Middle-of-the-road fallacy

” We must compromise”; “We should be nonpartisan”; “We want to get things done.” These frequently heard phrases by political “moderates” or “centrists” indicate their desire for conflicting government factions to get along—mission impossible. American political divides have eroded into chasms.

In such times it is useful to study (or, at least, rudimentarily understand) the wisdom of past scholarly thinkers. One such worthy sage was the late Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. An institute of classic economics promoting liberty perpetuates his name:

http://mises.org/midroad.asp. Here he discusses middle-of-the-road economic policy that leads to socialism.

Two historically irreconcilable economic systems—capitalism and socialism—continue to attract opposing groups. Mises tells us that the controversy is about which of the two systems can best provide for the ultimate economic aim of virtually all rational people: “the best possible supply of useful commodities and services” (“best,” I will define as providing these with competitive value, honesty and expediency).

Mises says that these systems are not about who gets to distribute the public “booty.” I suspect that this explains the underlying anger of so many Americans about contemporary politics—both capitalists and socialists are held equally guilty for using government agencies and operatives to distribute our wealth to those who haven’t earned it.

Capitalists, Mises writes, classically believe that private enterprises are best suited to provide what we want, subject to our whims about buying, or not, in a competitive market. Socialists want to substitute central planning for our individual plans—what Karl Marx called the “anarchy of production”: government monopoly of production.

Mises believed that the conflict of these two systems “does not allow for any compromise.” Emphatically, he said, “There is nothing that could mitigate the opposition between (them).” So, that leaves those who reject both economic systems with what they hope is a third way “midway between the other two systems.” Or is it?

Splitting the difference, so to speak, is “entirely fallacious,” writes Mises–moderates attempting to divide the “booty,” presumptuously in a more equitable manner. Problem is: these “mediators” want the state to interfere. Assuming the people running this system will be wiser and more impartial is a huge leap of faith—and wrong.

In Mises words, “(state operators) should curb the greed of the capitalists and assign part of the profits to the working classes”—supposedly, to cut down capitalism without building totalitarian socialism. Again, this thinking is based on false premises.

Mises says, “Control is indivisible.” Either consumer demand decides how producers supply their needs and wants, or government bureaucrats dictate how it will be. “Interventionism is not a golden mean between capitalism and socialism.” Mises called it a “third system of society’s economic organization.”

I think that this is what many of us now refer to as crony-capitalism. We can’t have it both ways. Government power will inevitably corrupt and destroy capitalism, if we the people allow it.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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