L. von Mises, Economics hates specialization

Economics deals with the operation of the whole system of social cooperation, with the interplay of all its determinants, and with the interdependence of the various branches of production. It cannot be broken up into separate fields open to treatment by specialists who neglect the rest. It is simply nonsensical to study money or labor or foreign trade with the same kind of specialization which historians apply when dividing human history into various compartments.

The history of Sweden can be treated with almost no reference to the history of Peru. But you cannot deal with wage rates without dealing at the same time with commodity prices, interest rates, and profits. Every change occurring in one of the economic elements affects all other elements.

One will never discover what a definite policy or change brings about if one limits his investigation to a special segment of the whole system. It is precisely this interdependence that the government does not want to see when it meddles in economic affairs. The government pretends to be endowed with the mystical power to accord favors out of an inexhaustible horn of plenty. It is both omniscient and omnipotent. It can by a magic wand create happiness and abundance.

The truth is that the government cannot give if it does not take from somebody. A subsidy is never paid by the government out of its own funds; it is at the expense of the taxpayer that the state grants subsidies. Inflation and credit expansion, the preferred methods of present-day government openhandedness, do not add anything to the amount of resources available. They make some people more prosperous, but only to the extent that they make others poorer.

Interference with the market, with commodity prices, wage rates, and interest rates as determined by demand and supply, may in the short run attain the ends aimed at by the government. But in the long run such measures always result in a state of affairs which-from the viewpoint of the government-is more unsatisfactory than the previous state they were intended to alter…

The state can improve the conditions of a part of the wage earners by allegedly pro-labor legislation or by giving a free hand to labor-union pressure and compulsion. But if this policy does not result in a corresponding rise in the prices of manufactures, thereby bringing real wage rates back to the market level, it brings about unemployment of a considerable part of those willing to earn wages. A scrutiny of such policies from the viewpoint of economic theory must necessarily show their futility. This is why economics is tabooed by the bureaucrats. But the governments encourage the specialists who limit their observations to a narrow field without bothering about the further consequences of a policy…

The social scientists did not follow the example of the professors of theology who acquainted their students with the tenets and dogmas of other churches and sects and with the philosophy of atheism because they were eager to refute the creeds they deemed heretical. All that the students of the social sciences learned from their teachers was that economics is a spurious science and that the so-called economists are, as Marx said, sycophantic apologists of the unfair class interests of bourgeois exploiters, ready to sell the people to big business and finance capital…

European totalitarianism is an upshot of bureaucracy’s preeminence in the field of education. The universities paved the way for the dictators.


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