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1. Stabilization of the Monetary Unit — From the Viewpoint of Theory (1923)

VIII. The Ideological Meaning of Reform

1. The Ideological Conflict

The purely materialistic doctrine now used to explain every event looks on monetary depreciation as a phenomenon brought about by certain “material” causes. Attempts are made to counteract these imagined causes by various monetary techniques. People ignore, perhaps knowingly, that the roots of monetary depreciation are ideological in nature. It is always an inflationist policy, not “economic conditions,” which brings about the monetary depreciation. The evil is philosophical in character. The state of affairs, universally deplored today, was created by a misunderstanding of the nature of money and an incorrect judgment as to the consequences of monetary depreciation.

Inflationism, however, is not an isolated phenomenon. It is only one piece in the total framework of politico-economic and socio-philosophical ideas of our time. Just as the sound money policy of gold standard advocates went hand in hand with liberalism, free trade, capitalism and peace, so is inflationism part and parcel of imperialism, militarism, protectionism, statism and socialism.28 Just as the world catastrophe, which has swept over mankind since 1914, is not a natural phenomenon but the necessary outcome of the ideas which dominate our time, so also is the monetary crisis nothing but the inevitable consequence of the supremacy of certain ideologies concerning monetary policy.

Statist Theory has tried to explain every social phenomenon by the operation of mysterious power factors. It has disputed the possibility that economic laws for the formation of prices could be demonstrated. Failing to recognize the significance of commodity prices for the development of exchange relationships among various moneys, it has tried to distinguish between the domestic and foreign values of money. It has tried to attribute changes in exchange rates to various causes—the balance of payments, speculative activity, and political factors. Ignoring completely the Currency Theory's important criticism of the Banking Theory, Statist Theory has actually prescribed the Banking Theory. It has moreover even revived the doctrine of the canonists and of the legal authorities of the Middle Ages to the effect that money is a creature of the government and the legal order. Thus, Statist Theory prepared the philosophical groundwork from which the inflationism of recent years developed.

The belief that a sound monetary system can once again be attained without making substantial changes in economic policy is a serious error. What is needed first and foremost is to renounce all inflationist fallacies. This renunciation cannot last, however, if it is not firmly grounded on a full and complete divorce of ideology from all imperialist, militarist, protectionist, statist, and socialist ideas.

  • 28. [In his later works, Mises would have covered all these ideas, except “socialism,” with the terms “interventionism” or “hampered market.”—Ed.]