When asked what he would do, given absolute power to rule, Ludwig von Mises simply replied, "I would abdicate."

That seems an amazing choice at first blush. With so much potential ability to do good, wouldn't it be better to end war, free the oppressed, fix the world's broken political systems, and restructure all commerce for maximal efficiency? Von Mises, a classical liberal (or libertarian) scholar of economics, knew well the room for improvement in the human situation.

Yet he also knew that great power inevitably causes great damage to those on whom it is wielded — and to those who wield it. Nothing is more destructive than actions done "for your own good". No one can see perfectly from the viewpoint of another. And even if choices could be imposed that were indisputably correct, the victim would still lose both dignity and all chance to learn from experience. And the chooser, the hypothetical benign dictator? She would devolve, step by imperceptible step, into a tyrant; her successor would be worse.

Monday, February 21, 2000 at 07:52:21 (EST) = 2000-02-21

TopicSociety - TopicJustice

(correlates: OnFailure, PowerDistortion, EducationVersusEduction, ...)