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Mises on War

March 30, 1999

"The nations must come to realize that the most important problem of foreign policy is the establishment of lasting peace, and they must understand that this can be assured throughout the world only if the field of activity permitted to the state is limited to the narrowest range. Only then will the size and extent of the territory subject to the sovereignty of the state no long assume such overwhelming importance of the life of the individual as to make it seem natural, now as in the past, for rivers of blood to be shed in disputes over boundaries."

"[Classical] liberalism rejects aggressive war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility. It rejects aggressive war because it regards victory as harmful, and it wants no conquests because it sees them as an unsuitable means for reaching the ultimate goals for which it strives. Not through war and victory but only through work can a nation create the preconditions for the well-being of its members. Conquering nations finally perish, either because they are annihilated by strong ones or because the ruling class is culturally overwhelmed by the subjugated."

"The way to eternal peace does not lead through strengthening state and central power, as socialism strives for. The greater the scope the state claims in the life of the individual and the more important politics becomes for him, the more areas of friction are thereby created in territories with mixed population. Limiting state power to a minimum, as liberalism sought, would considerably soften the antagonisms between different nations that live side by side in the same territory. The only true national autonomy is the freedom of the individual against the state and society. The 'statification' of life and of the economy leads with necessity to the struggle of nations."

Ludwig von Mises
Nation, State, and Economy (1919)
(NY: New York University Press, 1983), pp. 87, 96.

"Market economy and total war are incompatible. In the soldiers' war only the soldiers fight; for the great majority war is only a passing suffering of evil, not an active pursuit. While the armies are combating each other, the citizens, farmers, and workers try to carry on their normal activities.

"The first step which led from the soldiers' war back to total war was the introduction of compulsory military service. It gradually did away with the difference between soldiers and citizens. The war was no longer to be only a matter of mercenaries; it was to include everyone who had the necessary physical ability. The slogan ‘a nation in arms' at first expressed only a program which could not be realized completely for financial reasons. Only part of the able-bodied male population received military training and were placed in the armed, services. But once this road is entered upon it is not possible to stop at halfway measures.

"Eventually the mobilization of the army was bound to absorb even the men indispensable to production at home who had the responsibility of feeding and equipping the combatants. It was found necessary to differentiate between essential and nonessential occupations. The men in occupations essential for supplying the army had to be exempted from induction into the combat troops. For this reason disposition of the available manpower was placed in the hands of the military leaders.

"Compulsory military service proposes putting everyone in the army who is able-bodied; only the ailing, the physically unfit, the old, the women, and the children are exempted. But when it is realized that a part of the able-bodied must be used on the industrial front for work which may be performed by the old and the young, the less fit and the women, then there is no reason to differentiate in compulsory service between the able-bodied and the physically unfit.

"Compulsory military service thus leads to compulsory labor service of all citizens who are able to work, male and female. The supreme commander exercises power over the entire nation, he replaces the work of the able-bodied by the work of less fit draftees, and places as many able-bodied at the front as he can spare at home without endangering the supply of the army. The supreme commander then decides what is to be produced and how. He also decides how the products are to be used. Mobilization has become total; the nation and the state have been transformed into an army; war socialism has replaced the market economy."

Ludwig von Mises
Interventionism: An Economic Analysis (1940)
(Irvington, NY: FEE, 1998), pp. 69-70

"In the long run, war and the preservation of the market economy are incompatible. Capitalism is essentially a scheme for peaceful nations.... The market economy, subject to the sovereignty of the individual consumers, turns out products which make the individual's life more agreeable. It caters to the individual's demand for more comfort. It is this that made capitalism despicable in the eyes of the apostles of violence. They worshiped the ‘hero,' the destroyer and killer, and despised the bourgeois and his ‘peddler mentality' (Sombart). Now mankind is reaping the fruits which ripened from the seeds sown by these men."

Ludwig von Mises (1949)
Human Action: The Scholar's Edition
(Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999), p. 824.


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