Friday, August 12, 2011

Sheldon Richman on Social Cooperation

Richman writes:

It is through cooperation and the division of labor that we all can live better lives. Naturally, he laid great stress on the need for peace. The absence of peace is the breakdown of that vital cooperation. This put Mises squarely in the pacifistic
classical-liberal tradition as exemplified by Richard Cobden, John Bright, Frédéric Bastiat, Herbert Spencer, and William Graham Sumner. Mises writes
in Liberalism:

The liberal critique of the argument in favor of war is fundamentally different from that of the humanitarians. It starts from the premise that not war, but peace, is the father of all things. What alone enables mankind to advance and distinguishes man from the animals is social cooperation. It is labor alone that is productive: it creates wealth and therewith lays the outward foundations for the inward flowering of man. War only destroys; it cannot create. War, carnage, destruction, and devastation we have in common with the predatory beasts of the jungle; constructive labor is our distinctively human characteristic. The liberal abhors war, not, like the humanitarian, in spite of the fact that it has beneficial consequences, but because it has only harmful ones...

We’re all grappling with an uncertain future. Social cooperation unquestionably makes that task easier than if we attempted to go it alone. That’s why individuals formed mutual-aid (fraternal) organizations. Besides camaraderie, these groups provided what the welfare state feebly and coercively provides today: islands of relative security in a sea of uncertainty.

If people support the welfare state, don’t be puzzled. It’s because they cannot see a better voluntarist alternative. That’s where libertarians come in.

We libertarians might have an easier time persuading others if we emphasized that freedom produces ever-more innovative ways to cooperate for mutual benefit and that when government dominates life, social cooperation is imperiled.

read the entire essay

No comments: