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The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Tu Ne Cede Malis

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The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science
Ludwig von Mises

Further Implications of the Neglect
of Economic Thinking

1. The Zoological Approach to Human Problems

Naturalism plans to deal with the problems of human action in the way zoology deals with all other living beings. Behaviorism wants to obliterate what distinguishes human action from the behavior of animals. In these schemes there is no room left for the specific human quality, man's distinctive feature, viz., the conscious striving after ends chosen. They ignore the human mind. The concept of finality is foreign to them.

Zoologically seen, man is an animal. But there prevails a fundamental difference between the conditions of all other animals and those of man. Every living being is naturally the implacable enemy of every other living being, especially of all other members of his own species. For the means of subsistence are scarce. They do not permit all specimens to survive and to consummate their existence up to the point at which their inborn vitality is fully spent. This irreconcilable conflict of essential interests prevails first of all among the members of the same species because they depend for their survival on the same foodstuffs. Nature is literally "red in tooth and claw."[1]

Man too is an animal. But he differs from all other animals as, by dint of his reason, he has discovered the great cosmic law of the higher productivity of cooperation under the principle of the division of labor. Man is, as Aristotle formulated it, the , the social animal, but he is "social" not on account of his animal nature, but on account of his specifically human quality. Specimens of his own zoological species are, for the human individual, not deadly enemies opposed to him in pitiless biological competition, but cooperators or potential cooperators in joint efforts to improve the external condition of his own welfare. An unbridgeable gulf separates man from all those beings that lack the ability to grasp the meaning of social cooperation.


[1] Tennyson, In Memoriam, LVI, iv.

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