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Mises Explains the Ukraine Conundrum


Obviously, Mises could not anticipate the specific conflict now at work in the Ukraine, but here we see the sorts of conflics we have witnessed time and time again within multiethnic countries, in two or more groups fight over control of the central state which enables one ethnic or linguistic group the ability to crush another.

We've certainly seen similar conflicts in the United States (sometimes along ethnic lines and sometimes not), and we see it today in the Ukraine. Anywhere a strong state exists, different factions will battle to control that state. As Mises noted, as long as states exist, the only way to deal with this reality is to lessen the need and desire to control the central state, and this is done by making the state weak.

In Liberalism (1929),  Mises wrote:

Modern imperialism is distinguished from the expansionist tendencies of the absolute principalities by the fact that its moving spirits are not the members of the ruling dynasty, nor even of the nobility, the bureaucracy, or the officers' corps of the army bent on personal enrichment and aggrandizement by plundering the resources of conquered territories, but the mass of the people, who look upon it as the most appropriate means for the preservation of national independence. In the complex network of antiliberal policies, which have so far expanded the functions of the state as to leave hardly any field of human activity free of government interference, it is futile to hope for even a moderately satisfactory solution of the political problems of the areas in which members of several nationalities live side by side. If the government of these territories is not conducted along completely liberal lines, there can be no question of even an approach to equality of rights in the treatment of the various national groups.There can then be only rulers and those ruled. The only choice is whether one will be hammer or anvil. Thus, the striving, for as strong a national state as possible, one that can extend its control to all territories of mixed nationality, becomes an indispensable requirement of national self-preservation. [Emphasis added.]

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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