Mises: Economics as a Profession—An Offshoot of Interventionism

Ludwig von Mises wrote:

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  1. Economics as a Profession

The early economists devoted themselves to the study of the problems of economics. In lecturing and writing books they were eager to communicate to their fellow citizens the results of their thinking. They tried to influence public opinion in order to make sound policies prevail in the conduct of civic affairs. They never conceived of economics as a professionThe development of a profession of economists is an offshoot of interventionismThe professional economist is the specialist who is instrumental in designing various measures of government interference with business. He is an expert in the field of economic legislation, which today invariably aims at hindering the operation of the unhampered market economyThere are thousands and thousands of such professional experts busy in the bureaus of the governments and of the various political parties and pressure groups and in the editorial offices of party news-papers and pressure group periodicals. Others are employed as advisers by business or run independent agencies. Some of them have nation-wide or even world-wide reputations; many are among the most influential men of their countryIt often happens that such experts are called to direct the affairs of big banks and corporations, are elected into the legislature, and are appointed as cabinet ministers. They rival the legal profession in the supreme conduct of political affairs. The eminent role they play is one of the most characteristic features of our age of interventionismThere can be no doubt that a class of men who are so preponderant includes extremely talented individuals, even the most eminent men of our age. But the philosophy that guides their activities narrows their horizonBy virtue of their connection with definite parties and pressure groups, eager to acquire special privileges, they became one-sided. They shut their eyes to the remoter consequences of the policies they are advocating. With them nothing counts but the short-run concerns of the group they are serving. The ultimate aim of their efforts is to make their clients prosper at the expense of other people. They are intent upon convincing themselves that the fate of man-kind coincides with the short-run interests of their group. They try to sell this idea to the public. In fighting for a higher price of silver, of wheat, or of sugar, for higher wages for the members of their

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Human Action union, or for a tariff on cheaper foreign products, they claim to be fighting for the supreme good, for liberty and justice, for their nation’s flowering, and for civilization.

Human Action, pp. 865-866

Book:  Human Action

Book in PDF formatHuman Action

Scholars Edition: Human Action

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