Mises Against Anarchy

On pg. 149 of Human Action, speaking on anarchy, Mises says:

The anarchists overlook the undeniable fact that some people are either too narrow-minded or too weak to adjust themselves spontaneously to the conditions of social life. Even if we admit that every sane adult is endowed with the faculty of realizing the good of social cooperation and of acting accordingly, there still remains the problem of the infants, the aged, and the insane. We may agree that he who acts antisocially should be considered mentally sick and in need of care. But as long as not all are cured, and as long as there are infants and the senile, some provision must be taken lest they jeopardize society. An anarchistic society would be exposed to the mercy of every individual. Society cannot exist if the majority is not ready to hinder, by the application or threat of violent action, minorities from destroying the social order. This power is vested in the state or government.

State or government is the social apparatus of compulsion and coercion. It has the monopoly of violent action. No individual is free to use violence or the threat of violence if the government has not accorded this right to him. The state is essentially an institution for the preservation of peaceful interhuman relations. However, for the preservation of peace it must be prepared to crush the onslaughts of peace-breakers.

Mises here speaks against anarchism essentially because not all individuals will consciously realize the benefits of social cooperation and can “jeopardize society” if there aren’t provisions made to protect society against these individuals. He rightfully deems the state as the de facto social apparatus of compulsion and coercion. The problem, though, with Mises’ analysis is that he fails to realize that other social institutions would spring up in absence of the state to preserve the harmony of society and protect individuals property rights. He fails to realize that property rights could be enforced by voluntary institutions. Despite his pervasive views on social cooperation, he displays a noticeable lack of confidence in the ability of society to cooperate in creating voluntary justice and legal systems. 

He says “Society cannot exist if the majority is not ready to hinder, by the application or threat of violent action, minorities from destroying the social order. This power is vested in the state or government.” He is correct is stating society cannot exist if individuals cannot defend themselves against violent action, but jumps to saying government has that power, without any justification as to why government should rightfully hold that power. He seems to be inferring that government is granted that power by society when he calls it a social institution, despite the reality that no government has ever truly been founded on consent; government is an antisocial institution.

If an overwhelming majority of individuals recognize the benefits that come with social cooperation, as Mises asserts, it seems obvious that they would take steps to ensure their property rights were secure by creating voluntary institutions designed to do so. He also gives credence to the notion that rights come from government by saying that, “No individual is free to use violence or the threat of violence if the government has not accorded this right to him.”

In conclusion, Mises is rightfully worried that there will always be individuals wanting to harm others and jeopardize society itself; where he is wrong is that he assumes a state monopoly power of coercion and violence is the only way to secure the blessings  of society. For someone whose works are extremely rigorous, Mises fails here in many aspects by making many blind assertions and dubious assumptions that someone of his caliber should not make.
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