2000 Schlarbaum Award Speech
RALPH RAICO is the 2nd the winner of the Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty. The Schlarbaum Prize, given annually by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, carries with it an award of an inscribed gold medal and a $10,000 grant.
Raico is professor of European history at Buffalo State College and a specialist on the history of liberty, the liberal tradition in Europe, and the relationship between war and the rise of the state. Among many articles, he is author of "World War I: The Turning Point" and "Rethinking Churchill" in the 2nd edition of The Costs of War (edited by John V. Denson).
Professor Raico was a 17-year-old high school student when he first knocked on Ludwig von Mises's door. He studied economics at Mises's famed New York seminar, learned German upon his advice, and translated Mises's Liberalism into English. Raico became a close friend and colleague of Murray Rothbard, and took his PhD at the University of Chicago under the tutelage of F.A. Hayek.
He is the author of a new book in German on the history of German Liberalism: Die Partei der Freiheit: Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Liberalismus (Stuttgart: Lucus & Lucius, 1999) and of Classical Liberalism: Historical Essays in Political Economy (forthcoming from Routledge).
Raico thinks and writes within the historical tradition of the French classical liberals, Acton, Mises, and Rothbard. His work exhibits not only a mastery of historical fact and the existing literature on whatever subject with which he concerns himself. He is also passionately attached to the liberal ideal and has demonstrated the courage to advance that ideal despite the biases of his profession.
In this, he goes even further than his predecessors by integrating a profound economic understanding into his analysis, viewing the state as the enemy of freedom and morality, as well as prosperity.
For several years, he has taught at the Mises University, a program that focuses on economic theory. Raico's invaluable contribution to this conference and many others has been to add a broader perspective on the history of liberty, tracing the advent of liberal theory from the Middle Ages and the decline of freedom in our own time.
As a lecturer, he displays impressive skill. Students sit with rapt attention as Raico weaves together intellectual and political history, explaining the real causes and consequences of wars, depressions, and revolutions. In his scholarship and personal example, he has inspired a younger generation of historians, and kindled hope in a future of honesty in historical scholarship and the future of liberty itself.
Professor Raico was awarded the Schlarbaum Prize at a gala black-tie dinner at the conclusion of the Mises Institute 2000 Supporters Summit on The History of Liberty, Auburn, Alabama, January 28-29, 2000.
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It is most gratifying to me to be the recipient of the Gary G. Schlarbaum award. Dr. Schlarbaum deserves the admiration of all friends of freedom for his devotion to liberty and his initiative in endowing this award for years to come.
I am happy, too, to be the second recipient of the Schlarbaum award, following in the footsteps of Dr. Otto von Habsburg.
Otto von Habsburg was a man for whom Ludwig von Mises had great respect, and, at a certain historical moment, even great hope, as a possible leader of Austria after the Second World War. Dr. Habsburg is a noted scholar, and, in fact, he contributed an excellent article to our graduate student journal, New Individualist Review, back in my University of Chicago days.
In awarding Dr. Habsburg the Schlarbaum prize, the Institute was also acknowledging the immense role that Old Austria has played in the intellectual history of the twentieth century--above all, in giving birth to and nurturing the school of economics and social philosophy that is our most powerful tool in making sense of social reality, which goes by the name of the Austrian School.
Now, the juxtaposition of the names Habsburg and Raico may strike some as surprising. I can understand that, to an extent. Habsburg is the most famous family name in the history of Europe, as I sometimes point out to my students. I occasionally add that Raico is the 24th most famous family name in European history. Years ago, when I would say this, a few of the brighter students would smile knowingly, or even laugh. I have given up saying it, though, since nowadays I find my students writing this "fact" down in their notebooks--I suppose, preparing to answer the question on an exam.
For a number of years I have been a senior scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and been involved in many of its activities. This is an association that is very dear to me. Since a time when I was younger than practically anyone in this room tonight, I have been engaged with the thought of Mises and his brilliant disciple, Murray Rothbard.
The Achievement of Ludwig von Mises
I began attending the Mises seminar at New York University in the mid-1950s,and to this day, it stands out in my mind as the most exciting intellectual experience of my life.
It was through Leonard Read and the Foundation for Economic Education, in Irvington, New York, that I and my buddy at the Bronx High School of Science, George Reisman, were invited to attend the seminar, and that I came to know the great Mises.
Mises was a living connection to another world. He was raised and educated in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the time of the last cultural flourishing of the Habsburg lands. He became an American citizen, and was always proud of being an American. But he remained through and through an Austrian as well and proud of that too.
At the end of the 20th century it is easier to see what Mises's achievement consists in.
I leave aside his fundamental and path-breaking contributions to strictly theoretical economics, in the theory of money, in the explanation of the business cycle, in the correct methodology of economics, in the superb architectonic of his system as presented in Human Action. This is the magnum opus of the greatest social scientist of the twentieth century. And not the least of the Institute's many accomplishments has been to produce the splendid Scholar's Edition of Human Action.
Still, many here tonight are in a much better position to set forth all of this than I am. What I will mention and dwell on for a moment is Mises's analysis of socialism and what that says about his character.
You know, in all the 40-plus volumes of the collected works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels there are a mere handful of pages devoted to what the future socialist commonwealth will look like and a very few, very vague sentences on how it would actually function. In contrast to the so-called "utopian socialists" before them--it was Marx and his collaborator who coined that derogatory term--Marx and Engels dwelt virtually exclusively on the alleged fatal defects of capitalism: on the supposed inexorable laws of history that will bring socialism about; on the strategy of revolution; on how contemptible anyone who defended capitalism was; on how there was no need to listen to and answer any objections from defenders of the private property system, since they were all conscious or unconscious liars.
Following Marx, generations of socialists behaved in the same way as they do to this day. Again and again, they pillory capitalism for everything that is wrong in the world. I remember many years ago reading a silly pamphlet, filled with platitudes and childish clich?s, published by some small American socialist group, titled, I believe, People, Not Profits. Its author was Albert Einstein. Again, there was nothing concrete on how the future socialist society would actually operate, as the famous scientist expatiated on how utterly reprehensible capitalism was. And successive socialists have had no better record.
Well, Ludwig von Mises got tired of all this. He addressed the gentlemen socialists more or less as follows:
You have been effusive in your never-ending condemnation of the order of private property and the market economy. However, in logic it is clearthat whether socialism is superior to capitalism cannot be decided until wealso know what socialism is and how it will operate. Would you now kindlyexplain how a socialist economy is to function. And, in particular, will you explain how the socialist administrators will be in a position to makerational decisions in the absence of market prices for capital goods.
This was no half-hearted, practically apologetic defense. This was an in-your-face challenge.
And Mises went on to demonstrate the impossibility of rational economic calculation under socialism. Back in 1922, he showed how and why the peoples of the Soviet Union (and of every other socialist regime) all those tens and tens of millions, were destined to travel the weary road to nowhere.
In the decades to come, celebrated professors at Harvard and Stanford, MIT and Duke, Cambridge and the London School, and everywhere else, were mesmerized by the "brilliant successes" of Soviet planning. And college students are still obliged by their professors to read these ignorant apologias.
Now we know that Mises was right, and all those celebrated nonentities were wrong.
It is on the record (testified to by Hayek himself) that it was Mises's Socialism that converted, from their youthful socialist "idealism" to belief in the free market: F. A. Hayek, Wilhelm R?pke, Lionel Robbins, and many others. Even Milton Friedman had to concede: "there is no doubt in my mind that Ludwig von Mises has done more to spread the fundamental ideas of free markets than any other individual."
And yet, today, there are free market institutes and organizations and writers, here and abroad, world-wide, that seem to have forgotten what Ludwig von Mises achieved for freedom based on private property.
An example came up just last week. There was a long piece in the Times Literary Supplement---the TLS--of London, by Kenneth Minogue. Minogue is emeritus professor at the University of London, and he is a very intelligent man, personable, pro-free market, and a major figure in the Mont P?lerin Society.
If the central contest of the twentieth century has pitted capitalism against socialism, then F. A. Hayek has been its central figure. He helped us to understand why capitalism won by a knockout. It was Hayek who elaborated the basic argument demonstrating that central planning was nothing else but an impoverishing fantasy.
Minogue names Mises exactly once in his expansive article: when Hayek had the idea of founding the Mont P?lerin Society, he gathered Karl Popper, Lionel Robbins, Mises, and others together, and so on. There is no mention of the role of Mises in converting Hayek from a wooly-minded socialist, as he was as a young man in 1922, to a believer in the free market. There is no mention of the fact that the "basic argument" which Hayek supposedly "elaborated" on the impossibility of rational economic calculation under socialism which is what converted him to capitalism in the first place, had been discovered and set forth in a book by Mises called Socialism. Well, our Auburn Institute certainly has not forgotten Mises. Instead, they blazon his name.
Murray Rothbard: Peace and Freedom
But, if others have forgotten Mises, what can we say about the way they treat Murray Rothbard? This brings up another reason why the NYU Mises seminar back in the 50s was a turning point in my life. Not only did I become acquainted with Mises himself, but that very first night George Reisman and I encountered the young scholar who to my mind was clearly the spark plug of the seminar: Murray Rothbard. Murray invited us out for coffee afterwards, and--well, how can I explain the tremendous impression he made on a 17-year-old? Imagine: Mises and Murray, the two of them in one night!
I recall a few things from that first conversation--Murray shocked the knee-jerk right-winger in me by saying, of course, we should recognize "Red China"--an issue in those days--since it would help the overarching cause of peace. he also told us that Mises was without a doubt the greatest economist of the century and a social philosopher for the ages. But on politics and the nature of the state, Murray confided, in a conspiratorial yet joking tone I was to come to know so well--"Well, some of us consider him to belong to the non-Communist left."
Mises, on the other hand, was also aware of certain differences with Murray, whom he pretty clearly looked on as the continuator of his ideas. One evening, the question of--how shall I put it?--the totally voluntary society, okay, anarcho-capitalism--came up. Afterwards, with affectionate exasperation, Mises said: "Ach, that Rothbard! He's for anything that's against the government!"
To my mind, Murray's greatest contribution--beyond his innumerable insights--is his creation of the powerful synthesis, combining natural law theory, Austrian economics, and the tradition of individualist anarchism, and all based on the principle of private property and individual rights.
As a corollary of his system, Murray delved deeply into issues of foreign policy and revisionist history. In analyzing current political events, his watchword was always Peace--avoidance of the state's wars and the war-fostering myths the state invents and tries to entrench in our minds.
Today, if the libertarian movement stresses peace and a non-interventionist foreign policy, that is the work of Murray Rothbard. If others had had their way, the libertarians would have gone in a very different direction.
Mises was not limited to the field of economics, and here also Murray followed in his footsteps. He was the opposite of the numbers-crunchers in today's economics departments. His aim was to understand--to understand the workings of society, to understand the nature of freedom, to trace its roots, to ascertain how it could be brought to as much perfection as fallible human beings are capable of.
Yet who else carries on the work of Mises and Rothbard today? Other free market organizations, which do some good, I will not deny it, but still, they find it safer to advertise their connection with Hayek and Milton Friedman. Mises and Murray were never salonf?hig, as the Germans say - they weren't "clubbable," in the English sense. In their intransigence, in their refusal to compromise, they were always and still are something of an embarrassment in polite society.
Yes, well. In the end it always depends on how you choose to live your life.
The Work of the Mises Institute
In the past years, the work of the Mises Institute has progressed beyond our dreams, or, more precisely, beyond the dreams of all of us but one.
This has been the accomplishment, of course, of its President, Lew Rockwell.
People worry about the possibility of human cloning. They're a little late. It's already happened. So far as I can see, that is the only possible explanation for all that Lew Rockwell does so well-- his daily direction of the Institute in all its many aspects, his constant stream of excellent writings, his continual interaction with so many libertarians and conservatives across the country and now around the world, his planning of the great expansion of the Institute's splendid home here in Auburn, and all the rest.
I would like to mention especially the latest example of his industriousness, on the Internet. The Institute itself, of course, has had its webpage for a while, with all its archived treasures, which has been the work of Jeff Tucker. And now we also have LewRockwell.com.
Thus, the Institute is fully exploiting the New Media--which has arrived just in the nick of time to become the alternative to the lying, corrupt Old Media. And if you followed the TV networks and the major newspapers during the outrageous, illegal, and unconstitutional war waged by the NATO killers against Yugoslavia, you know just how lying and corrupt they are.
But now we have the Internet as the antidote. And here we see perhaps the Hegelian "cunning of history" at work. It is deeply ironic, is it not, that the forces of freedom have turned the invention of our leftist vice president Al Gore into a weapon of mass destruction against the State.
There is the Austrian Scholars Conference, which each year brings together dozens of libertarian and conservative scholars and many others who come to listen and respond to their papers. Through these conferences, we have met young libertarians from Germany, from Romania, from the Czech Republic, from Italy and Britain, Poland and France and China and elsewhere, who have become advocates of our libertarian ideas in their own countries, sometimes setting up publications and centers, wherever their means permit it.
At one such conference a few years ago, we first met two young Italian professors, Marco Bassani and Carlo Lottieri, and kept in touch. Well, last fall, Marco and Carlo headed up a major conference in Milan, on classical liberalism. The two of them created a magnificent public exhibition, called "Il Cammino della Libert?"--Freedom's Road. It was shown at the main civic center of Milan, and is now traveling throughout Italy, and has already been viewed by tens of thousands.
Well, Hans Hoppe and I were invited to the conference in Milan. My little talk was fairly well received. But then, for some reason, Hans was paired in his talk with an Italian professor who happened to be a Communist - a nice, Italian, non-Gulag kind of Communist, you have to understand. The whole atmosphere was one of tolerance and sweetness and light. But that didn't last long. Hans ended his talk by saying: "If a cannibal comes to my door and demands to confiscate my body I do not tolerate him - I blow his head off! And the same goes if a Communist comes to my door and demands to confiscate my property!" The poor Commie professor looked deeply hurt. Tut, tut, Hans, so little tolerance you have. At the conclusion of Professor Hoppe's remarks, the applause in the hall was scattered--but in spots extremely enthusiastic.
What Hans and I found in northern Italy was that there is now a hotbed of very smart, very aggressive young libertarians, who hold conferences, publish respectable little magazines, have access, somehow, to the major papers, and agitate in the schools and universities. These young people are not only Misesians, they are Rothbardians, and even--as Murray used to say, mirabile dictu--Hoppeites! What this will mean for the future of Italy, which has been on the verge of total breakdown for centuries anyway, I cannot say. But I offer this as an example of the influence, now worldwide, that the Mises Institute can have.
There have also been the special conferences held by the Institute, the conference that produced the volume on the right of secession; the conference that produced The Costs of War; and others. The conference on the American Presidency was one of my favorites. It was held in Warm Springs, Georgia, the "Little White House" of Franklin Roosevelt, out of our profound love and respect for the "greatest President of the twentieth century," as Newt Gingrich and the Wall Street Journal like to call him. If you were not there, it is a pity, because you could have joined us in shocking the reverent tourists on their pilgrimage, who happened to overhear some of our comments, as we inspected the sacred relics of the Little White House and strolled through the pathways of the estate of the Greatest Liar in twentieth century American history.
The Mises Summer University: Diversity Based on Freedom
But for me the best is the Mises Summer University.
The lecturers are brought together by Jeff Tucker, who sets up the schedule. Pat Barnett is in charge of the Summer University itself, as she is of our other conferences. Pat is constantly at work, seeing to every facet, from the largest arrangements to the smallest detail.
In fact, all of the quite small but select staff of the Institute, in my experience, tend to work this way, including Judy Thommesen, who is responsible for the beautiful books and the other publications the Institute puts out. I suspect that when the time comes to negotiate salaries, Lew makes sure to emphasize the Austrian concept of psychic income.
Last summer is a good example of the work of the Mises University. It brought together some 125 students--in the widest sense of the term. They were undergrads and graduate students for the most part, but also young instructors and older students of liberty, including married couples interested in ideas. Though most were Americans, altogether they came from 16 countries. They were bright and eager. They ate up the lectures and seminars of our staff, in economics, philosophy, history, law, and social theory, and challenged us with their own views. They learned from each other and made contacts that will last for years to come.
From wherever they came, they were amazed and delighted to discover that they were not alone, that there were others who shared their ideas and their values, and an Institute dedicated to backing them up.
Now, we have to understand what life is like for college students today.
Political correctness has progressed to lengths which would have been inconceivable even 5 or 10 years ago. You have probably heard of the case of the Atlanta Braves baseball player, John Rocker, who made some comments about the New York City subway system and the sorts of people you're likely to encounter if you take a subway ride--comments which were not inaccurate, as most New Yorkers would tell you. On the other hand--I speak as a born and bred New Yorker) thankfully there's more to the City than the subways.
Well, Rocker was ordered to undergo psychiatric examination.
And yet, when Jesse Jackson tells us that the fact that black youths are disciplined for disorderliness and violence in the schools all out of proportion to their numbers, that this is purely the result of "white racism," is he ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination? If Jackson's statement isn't crazy, I don't know what is.
It's amazing what the apostles of political correctness get away with. The neoconservative Glenn C. Loury, a professor of economics at Boston University, weighed in on the controversy over flying the Confederate Battle Flag. According to Professor Loury, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee and the other Confederate leaders were traitors, traitors against the United States of America, and that settles the matter.
Somehow it never occurred to this professor in his ignorant expostulation that their "treason" was precisely of the same sort as the "treason" of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, who led our secession from the British Empire. Actually, the real scandal, as one of my more radical friends recently wrote, is that the federal flag is flying over the state capital in Columbia, South Carolina.
The War Against the West-and Our Response
Today America is in the grip of a dominant political class. It consists of the media, the educational establishment, and the state apparatus--the federal bureaucrats, the federal judges--as well as their supporters at every level of government.
Paul Gottfried has described this political class and its aims and goals very well, in his book, After Liberalism. It is a self-appointed elite that fully intends to bring about a radical restructuring of our society, to alter all of our inherited ideas and values in the direction of egalitarianism and socialism. In the end, there will be a systematic redistribution of property, from the rightful owners to the "needy." So, massive expropriation, together with a crusade to remake the nature of man--the Bolshevik Revolution, but without, to all appearances, any need for mass murder. It will all be done through what passes for "democracy" today.
In the colleges and universities, the agenda of this political class is virtually unopposed. Unless you are actually in the midst of academic life today, you will find it hard to imagine what it is like.
There are whole departments, Women's Studies, Black Studies, in some places Chicano Studies, and others devoted to this task. On every campus there is a Diversity Office, dedicated to bringing more professors of victimology on to the campus. There are speech codes and the incessant war against fraternities. Agitation and violence are sanctioned and permitted for privileged groups, while conservative speakers often are not even allowed on the campus because of a threatened riot.
In many schools--including the best schools-- "sensitivity training" for the whole class of entering freshmen is mandatory. A new profession has been created, sensitivity "facilitators," whose job is to remake the personalities of the students. You can read about this in documented detail in the excellent book by the distinguished scholar Alan Kors and the civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses.
A few summers ago, while we were having our Mises Summer University, a gathering of such "facilitators" was taking place at the same time in this Conference Center. Some of our students went over and sat in, including one German student. He was astounded to witness a game the "facilitators" were taught, to add to their arsenal when they got back to their own campuses--"the Blue Eyes vs. the Brown Eyes." The rules of this game were that the blue eyes got to lord it over the brown eyes, who were oppressed for the mere color of their eyes. This was supposed to teach what's going on in our racist society to the facilitators, who will then fan out across the country spreading their message of compassion and love.
I told Stephan, the German boy, "Welcome to the Sweet Land of Liberty, at the end of the twentieth century." In the coming America, woe unto you blue eyes and gray eyes and green eyes, you who were born guilty and will always be guilty, to the end of your days, you who will be made to pay over and over again for crimes you never committed.
One definition of the Mises Institute is this: it is America's, and in time the world's, defiant citadel against political correctness and the brainwashing of the young in all its forms.
Who can doubt that we are engaged in a great struggle, a culture war, with forces that would destroy our western civilization?
At this point, the stock, knee-jerk "liberal" response is to yell "conspiracy theory!"
Well, first of all, there have been conspiracies in history. Wasn't there a Bolshevik conspiracy to take over Russia? Wasn't there a Nazi conspiracy to take over Germany? But, second, there is no need to posit a "conspiracy" when we speak of the campaign against western civilization and our way of life. It is rather a question of a shared adversarial culture -- the culture of the public schools and the college professors; the culture of the media elite; the culture of the federal bureaucrats and judges and civil rights prosecutors.
At the Mises Institute there is no political correctness, there is no subject that is off-limits because it might offend the liberal media or liberal academics. The Mises Institute does not play that political game. Its scholars are truth-seekers, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard.
For what the Ludwig von Mises Institute is, for what it fights for, for what it has achieved and will achieve in the years ahead, I gratefully accept the Gary G. Schlarbaum Award.