The Anti-Capitalist Mentality

Short parts of this Mises classic have been put on-line, courtesy of the Mises Blog.

This has long been my favorite Mises book, and my favorite Mises title, here is one juicy passage:

There has never been an era in which the many were pre­pared to do justice to contemporary art. Reverence to the great authors and artists has always been limited to small groups. What characterizes capitalism is not the bad taste of the crowds, but the fact that these crowds, made prosper­ous by capitalism, became “consumers” of literature–of course, of trashy litera­ture. The book market is flooded by a downpour of trivial fic­tion for the semibarbarians. But this does not prevent great au­thors from creating imperishable works.

And how is this for polemic?:

John Ruskin will be remembered–together with Carlyle, the Webbs, Bernard Shaw and some others–as one of the gravedig­gers of British freedom, civilization and prosperity. A wretched character in his private no less than in his public life, he glorified war and bloodshed and fanatically slan­dered the teachings of political economy which he did not understand. He was a big­oted detractor of the market econ­omy and a romantic eulogist of the guilds. He paid homage to the arts of earlier centuries. But when he faced the work of a great living artist, Whistler, he dis­praised it in such foul and objurgatory language that he was sued for libel and found guilty by the jury. It was the writings of Ruskin that popularized the prejudice that capitalism, apart from being a bad economic system, has substituted ugliness for beauty, pettiness for grandeur, trash for art.

When was the last time you heard the word “objurgatory” used so effectively?

Mises was no paleo-conservative, rather he embodied the radical streak in classical liberalism at its best.


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