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Böhm-Bawerk on Economic Law versus Political Control

April 3, 2010

With the unfortunate continuing expansion of economic interventionism, if not outright socialism, revisiting the writings of the outstanding Austrian School economist, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, is illuminating. In 1914, Böhm-Bawerk published an essay, “Control or Economic Law”, in which he analyzed whether political dictate could invalidate economic law. Of course, as one of the foremost economists of his time, Böhm-Bawerk knew that attempts to annul economic law by political fiat are futile. Below are comments from the beginning of Böhm-Bawerk’s essay:

“…the fact that, just as natural phenomena are governed by immutable eternal laws, quite independent of human will and human laws, so in the sphere of economics there exist certain laws against which the will of man, and even the powerful will of the state, remain impotent; and that the flow of economic forces cannot, by artificial interference of societal control, be driven out of certain channels into which it is inevitably pressed by the force of economic laws. Such a law, among others, was considered to be that of supply and demand, which again and again had been observed to triumph over the attempts of powerful governments to render bread cheap in lean years by means of ‘unnatural’ price regulations, or to confer upon bad money the purchasing power of good money.”

Despite the warnings of Böhm-Bawerk (and other economic scientists), politicians and bureaucrats, as well as their kept technical advisors and media propagandists and apologists, continue to ignore economic law. Their overriding concern is with power and with forcibly establishing a society that conforms to their wishes, no matter how irrational (and immoral). As a result of the political class’ deliberate disregard of the teachings of economics, the standard of living of most members of society continues to be negatively impacted. In addition, interaction between individuals is increasingly governed by the point of a gun, by violence, by the law of the jungle, as opposed to voluntary and peaceful cooperation. Economic interventionism and socialism are both characteristics and drivers of the ongoing decay of civilization.

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