"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

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Monday, November 01, 2004
  Reisman on Soros
George Reisman has a new (reprinted) article at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute on George Soros. It was originally written in response to a piece Soros had penned in 1997, The Capitalist Threat. For those who don't know him, Soros is a billionare who slouches to the left, and whose biggest intellectual influence is Karl Popper. Dr. Reisman's piece does a thorough philosophical and economic demolition job on Soros. Here's some highlights:
In his epistemological argument, Soros claims that there is an essential common denominator between laissez-faire capitalism and communism and Nazism. He writes: "Although laissez-faire doctrines do not contradict the principles of the open society the way Marxism-Leninism or Nazi ideas of racial purity did, all these doctrines have an important feature in common: they all try to justify their claim to ultimate truth with an appeal to science." Soros has already announced the principle that: "Since the ultimate truth is beyond the reach of humankind, these ideologies [ideologies that claim to possess it] have to resort to oppression in order to impose their vision on society."

Soros appears to understand that "fascism and communism... both relied on the power of the state to repress the freedom of the individual." Since laissez-faire capitalism constitutes the absolute freedom of the individual from the state in all areas of life other than the initiation of physical force, it may, indeed, seem nothing less than amazing that he places it in the same category as those doctrines. In sharpest contrast to the present system of massive government intervention, under laissez-faire capitalism the activities of the state are confined to the protection of the individual against acts of aggression, such as, for example, murder, robbery, rape, and fraud, and attack by foreign aggressor governments. The state does not go beyond this strictly limited function. It does not intrude in people's economic activities; nor does it intrude in their beliefs, sex lives, or any other aspect of their lives.

Perhaps because he is somewhat embarrassed by the nature of his claim about laissez-faire capitalism, Soros tries more than once to soften it. In addition to the modest, nonessential, qualification quoted above, in introducing the alleged important feature in common," he writes: "I want to emphasize, however, that I am not putting laissez-faire capitalism in the same category as Nazism or communism. Totalitarian ideologies deliberately seek to destroy the open society; laissez-faire policies may endanger it, but only inadvertently." Yet just two sentences later, he declares, "Nevertheless, because communism and even socialism have been thoroughly discredited, I consider the threat from the laissez-faire side more potent today than the threat from totalitarian ideologies." In this sentence, Soros very clearly does once again put laissez-faire capitalism in the same category as Nazism and communism, however much he may deny doing so. For the mere discrediting of communism and socialism is not sufficient to make laissez-faire capitalism into a greater threat than totalitarian ideologies unless there is something comparably evil about it. To take an analogy from the field of health, the development of cures or preventives for heart disease and cancer could result in another life-threatening illness, such as stroke, being elevated to the status of the major medical threat to human life. But this would be the case only because stroke is extremely damaging and life threatening in the first place.
And later on:
Soros describes the power and influence of the laissez-faire ideology in a way that, at first at least, seems extremely puzzling. He depicts it as a presently existing, major cultural force. For example, he writes, "Insofar as there is a dominant belief in our society today, it is a belief in the magic of the marketplace. The doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism holds that the common good is best served by the uninhibited pursuit of self-interest."

The truth, of course, is that few ideas have less influence in today's society than that of laissez-faire capitalism. Its lack of influence is obvious when one considers such leading facts as these: There are currently over 19 million government employees in the United States, enforcing over forty thousand pages of federal regulations, tens of thousand of pages of state and local government regulations, and countless volumes of federal, state, and local statutes, with the number of laws and regulations growing by thousands of pages annually. Recent [2004] data show that total government spending in the United States, including transfer payments under programs such as social security and medicare, amounts to $3.7 trillion out of total incomes of $9.3 trillion, i.e., about 40 percent. A successful individual is subject, directly and indirectly, to combined federal and state corporate and personal income taxes at a total, cumulative rate of approximately 70 percent. On top of all this, the extent of the fall in the long-term future purchasing power of all contracts denominated in a fixed number of dollars, and thus of the possible future impoverishment of tens of millions of citizens, is anybody's guess, given the government's power to increase the quantity of money without any fixed, externally imposed limit. Such facts, of course, stand in the most forceful, direct contradiction of any actually existing, present influence of the laissez-faire ideology.

Read on...


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