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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Roubini Smear: Mises Supported Fascism


By Robert Wenzel

NYU economics professor Nouriel Roubini is more ignorant of basic European history than I thought.

 He has put out this smear tweet.
The notion that Mises was a supporter of fascism comes from a paragraph Ludwig von Mises wrote in his 1927 book, Liberalism.

He wrote:
It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.
But, it first should be emphasized that the book containing this paragraph was written in 1927. Adolph Hitler did not come to power in Germany until 1933. So Mises was in no way referencing fascist Germany of the Hitler era. He was referring to pre-Hitler Italian fascism.

In the two pages before the above paragraph that the Roubini-style distorters wave about, Mises made clear what he was writing about and his objections to the fascist movement:
The fundamental idea of these movements - which came from the name of the most grandiose and tightly disciplined among them, the Italian, may, in general, be designated as Fascist - consist in the proposal to make use of the same unscrupulous methods in the struggle against the Third International as the latter employs against it and its opponents.
That is Mises correctly saw Italian fascism as a counterweight to the much more violent Third International (Comintern). From Wikipedia:
The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "struggle by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the state".
As late as 1941, the American journalist H. R. Knickerbocker wrote that "Mussolini's Fascist state is the least terroristic of the three totalitarian states. The terror is so mild in comparison with the Soviet or Nazi varieties, that it almost fails to qualify as terroristic at all." As an example he described an Italian journalist friend who refused to become a fascist. He was fired from his newspaper and put under 24-hour surveillance, but otherwise not harassed; his employment contract was settled for a lump sum and he was allowed to work for the foreign press. Knickerbocker contrasted his treatment with the inevitable torture and execution under Stalin or Hitler, and stated "you have a fair idea of the comparative mildness of the Italian kind of totalitarianism".

In  Liberalism, Mises directly contrasted the communist Third International and the early Italian fascists:
The parties of the Third International consider any means is permissible if it seems to give promise of helping them in this struggle to achieve their ends. Whoever does not unconditionally acknowledge all the teaching as the only correct ones and stand by them through thick and thin has, in their opinion, incurred the penalty of death; and they do not hesitate to exterminate him and his whole family, infants included, wherever it is physically possible.

The frank espousal of a policy of annihilating opponents in the murders committed in the pursuance of it have given rise to an opposition movement ....

Many people approve of the methods of fascism, even though its economic program is altogether anti-liberal in its policies and completely interventionist, because it is far from practicing the sensless unrestrained destruction that has stamped the Communists as the arch-enemies of civilization. Still others, in full knowledge of the evil that fascist economic policy brings with it, view fascism, in comparison with the Bolshevism in Sovietism, as at least the lesser evil....

Fascism can triumph today because universal indignation at the infamies committed by the socialists and communists has obtained for it the sympathies of wide circles. But when the fresh impression of the crimes of the Bolsheviks has paled, the socialist program will once again exercise its power of attraction on the masses. For Fascism does nothing to combat it except to suppress socialst ideas and to persecute the people who spread them. If it wanted really to combat socialism, it would have to oppose it with ideas. There is, however, only one idea that could be effectively opposed to socialism, viz., that of liberalism.
So here you have the full picture. Mises, pre-Hitler, considered the Italian "soft" fascists in a realpolitik manner a counter to the more violent communists of the Third International but he still made clear the problems with fascism and that the only ultimate solution was classical liberalism.

Yet, Roubini chooses to recognize none of this but simply launch the smear "Mises supported fascism." Yes, Mises, a Jew, who twice had to flee the Nazis, because of his classical free market views.

The implications made surrounding the "Mises supported fascism" statement are a dishonest outrage.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of

6 comments:

  1. I found an old response on this topic that I made to the loathsome "Lord Keynes" six or seven years ago:

    Your Mises’ attribution is taken completely out of context. Mises was clearly (and merely) pointing out that (in his opinion in 1927) the pre-Hitler form of fascism had halted the spread of Stalinist Pol Pot-like mass murdering Communism in Italy (Mussolini was indeed quite popular with hip leftists and even FDR until he joined up with Hitler in the late 1930s). But Mises also makes clear that fascism is a brutal and ignorant movement because fascists cannot even argue or engage in debate (just like socialists) and that fascism will lead to a civilization-ending war:

    “Fascism can triumph today because universal indignation at the infamies committed by the socialists and communists has obtained for it the sympathies of wide circles. But when the fresh impression of the crimes of the Bolsheviks has paled, the socialist program will once again exercise its power of attraction on the masses. For Fascism does nothing to combat it except to suppress socialist ideas and to persecute the people who spread them. If it wanted really to combat socialism, it would have to oppose it with ideas. There is, however, only one idea that can be effectively opposed to socialism, viz., that of liberalism. ****

    So much for the domestic policy of Fascism. That its foreign policy, based as it is on the avowed principle of force in international relations, CANNOT FAIL TO GIVE RISE TO AN ENDLESS SERIES OF WARS THAT MUST DESTROY ALL OF MODERN CIVILIZATION REQUIRES NO FURTHER DISCUSSION. To maintain and further raise our present level of economic development, peace among nations must be assured. But they cannot live together in peace if the basic tenet of the ideology by which they are governed is the belief that one's own nation can secure its place in the community of nations by force alone.

    It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.” Pages 50-51

    http://mises.org/books/liberalism.pdf

    See also Ralph Raico:

    http://mises.org/journals/jls/12_1/12_1_1.pdf

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    1. I appreciate your scholarship, Bob. I'm too much of a lightweight to research these things for myself. I'll check out the links. And yea, I've read a bit of Raico. He's great.

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    2. @Bob Roddis

      I agree with your analysis of what Mises actually meant, but I still find his conclusion extremely troubling. To assert that a political movement that was largely responsible for initiating the most destructive war in human history, as well as perhaps its most notorious campaign of genocide, "saved European civilization" is incredible.

      The notion that, but for a few goose-stepping, flag-waving tyrants, we'd have all been assimilated into the communist Borg, is every bit as ridiculous as the current speculation that the war on terror is forestalling the imposition of Sharia Law in the US.

      If anything, I would suspect that the aggressive totalitarian threat of the fascists further provoked the communists and chased people into their arms.

      I realize that Mises was there and I wasn't (though perhaps that made it difficult for him to see the forest from the trees), and that his contributions to libertarian theory are perhaps unparalleled, and that Roubini is just a mudslinging troll... BUT, Mises is clearly soft-pedaling the right-wing collectivist threat here.

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  3. Mises could have been anticipating Trumpism, too. Nouribi knows not what he talks about.

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  4. Mussolini: “He made the trains run on time (by putting the unions in their place).”

    Hitler: “He made the trains run on time, to the death camps.”

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