1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12494/more-powerful-than-armies/

More Powerful Than Armies

April 16, 2010 by

Mises often said that ideas are more powerful than armies. In the midst of war — and all governments are, to some extent, at war with their own people — it can take a leap of faith to agree. FULL ARTICLE by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.


newson April 16, 2010 at 9:12 am

i remember happening upon eseade in buenos aires in 1992. i was staggered that such an institute would exist in such a perfect example of the dystopic state. at that time, many first-world countries lacked anything similar.

great news from brazil, even though they have to cut through the lula media smog. maybe at last, parts of brazil will indeed slough off the brazil-forever-country-of-the-future-tag. i guess the southern industrial and industrious states are the most likely candidates. i’m eager to hear details on the secession strategy.

David Bratton April 16, 2010 at 10:25 am

FYI: American “Confederados”, descendants of the Southerners who immigrated to Brazil after the WBTS, fought for São Paulo in the 1932 attempt at secession.

Gil April 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

“ideas are more powerful than armies”

That sounds like romantic fluff. Not only do the winners write the history books but make the babies as well. A surprisingly and disproportionately large part of the human race is related to G(Ch?)engis Khan in some way.

Eric April 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I too am a bit skeptical about the power of “ideas” – but then every little bit helps.

Thanks to an idea mentioned either here or on LRC, I have a rebellious T shower fitting that doubles the flow of water in my shower. Now if that can lead to the abolishing of the FED – I’ll be quite impressed!

ladyattis April 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Gil, and how many of those descendants of G. Khan think and believe the same way he did? Hmmm? Ideas can be transmitted across time and space with little effort. Also, you forget that the Yuan Dynasty was easily defeated in the end by the fact that it was too “mongol” for its own good. Afterward, they’ve been but shadows in history.

Gil April 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Probably a great deal as they swept across the globe with great ferocity. Besides children are most likely to inherit the ideas of their parents. And what of the injustice of the more peaceful folk who were massacred and have no descendants?

Seattle April 16, 2010 at 11:35 pm

And dare I ask, where did Genghis Khan’s army come from? I suppose it just popped out of a hole in the ground.

Gil April 17, 2010 at 12:18 am

Since the Mongolians preferred to kill the losers than assimilate them the numbers must have comes from their babies. One unique structure of the Mongolians was the way the womenfolk ruled the roost at home leaving all the menfolk available to fight (sort of like WW2).

Seattle April 17, 2010 at 1:23 am

That explains where the people came from, but where did the army come from? People aren’t born with their behavior set in stone; Something must have made them want to become soldiers and conquer. Why did the Mongols fight for Genghis Khan?

Gil April 17, 2010 at 2:14 am
Seattle April 17, 2010 at 2:51 am

*triple sigh*

I was attempting to lead you into realizing for yourself, but this is taking too long. My point is, most of the soldiers fought (and fight today) because they believed fighting would, overall, better their lives. If they had understood economics their opinion on war would have been very different. And you cannot fight a war your army does not want to fight.

Gil April 17, 2010 at 9:58 am

The Mongolian army massacred people en masse. They liked killing and clearly wanted to fight and it worked for them as their empire was expanded fast and Europe would have been in big trouble had Ogedei Khan not dropped dead when he did.

David Hindmarsh April 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Citizens often become soldiers based on love for family, country or freedom. After these
idealistic citizens become soldiers, they then embrace a culture of combat which rewards
strength and victory at all costs. The more combat a soldier experiences, the more he is
influenced by the horrors of war and a culture of violence and power. War is Hell and all
who fight to kill for whatever reason are never the same. PTSD is real and it haunts and
handicaps many soldiers during war and later during peacetime. But some disabled vets
never really find peace when they return home, because a culture of war still haunts them.
I know. I am a disabled Vietnam Vet who spent over 25 years in the military and I have a
son that was in the military for six years. Now he is embracing the Iraq Veterans for Peace.

Glax April 17, 2010 at 2:42 am

There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come

newson April 17, 2010 at 5:22 am

ghenghis khan is irrelevant. that was a pre-industrial society. the payoffs from conquest were different when you could just seize booty and run.

Eric M. Staib April 17, 2010 at 8:21 am

…And the alternatives were fewer in the days before the printing press and e-books!

newson April 17, 2010 at 7:09 am

“Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission,
with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected we shall find, that as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion.”

David Hume, Essays. Moral, Political and Literary [Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 19711,
p. 19).

Allen Weingarten April 17, 2010 at 7:54 am

I concur with regard to the power of ideas. People often retort that it is the powerful who determine outcomes, which is the proximate (or immediate) cause. Yet that overlooks the underlying cause, namely how power is obtained to begin with.

How does man obtain power? One may presume it is wrested by force. Yet given the competition for control, what determines who obtains it? At first glance, it appears that the lions are the victors, for they are strongest. Yet it becomes apparent that it is the foxes who win, for they are more cunning. To see this it helps to review the findings of the 16th century French philosopher Étienne de La Boétie. He noted that every tyranny is grounded upon popular acceptance, where people acquiesce in their own subjugation. Étienne provides a variety of reasons why they do so, including custom, circuses, bribery, favors, and deception. It then becomes clear that it is less a matter of people being forced to submit, than of choosing to. People often choose short term gain at the detriment of long term prosperity, and thus subjugate reason and prudence to emotion and recklessness. Here people choose to gain by politics rather than by toil. Now, one can observe the payoffs that encourage submission. Yet that cannot be the primary explanation, for overall there is more loss than gain. Rather it is the influence on their thinking, especially on their moral judgments, that brings leadership. *Power is less due to might than to conceptual and moral dominion.*

There is a reason that Austrian economists (as well as libertarians, Objectivists, and conservatives) reject the view that ideas are determinant. It is because they believe that they possess the best ideas, while it is the foolish liberal ideas that hold sway. Yet liberals have won the war of ideas, even though their adversaries have had superior facts & logic. When it comes to explaining an analysis to the public, there is no substitute for marketing. An outlook is not adopted solely by its veracity, but by how well it is understood, fits into the user’s way of life, and is applicable. Note how well liberalism has been presented by its advocates. They aver: it is the evil of the greedy capitalists that cause recessions, depressions, and destructive policies; it is immoral for some to earn billions, while others are in poverty; this must be corrected by government, who acts as Robin Hood. (Even a high school dropout says: the rich make all our problems; its bad for them to got so much, while I ain’t got none; so their loot should be given to the community.) Such rhetoric is clear, simple, ‘moral’, and easy to apply with regard to policies. Were Austrian economists able to present their outlook in as clear, simple, ‘moral’, and applicable a manner, they would be competitive.

Gil April 17, 2010 at 10:04 am

Isn’t saying “all societies are democratic” essentially “blaming the victims”. “Well they didn’t fight hard enough when the invaders came so most of them got killed and the rest gave up the fight so they essentially volunteered to become slaves . . .”

Allen Weingarten April 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Gil, I concur that saying all societies are democratic is blaming the victims, in the sense that people get the government they deserve. However, this is not a matter of dealing with invaders, but of choosing destructive leaders. Moreover, the public is not the only cause of their own demise, since their leaders are also culpable, and especially the intelligentsia who influence the self-destructive behavior of the public.

Jordan Grant April 17, 2010 at 11:13 am

Very very well said, Allen. And this just makes common sense on a basic level if we just stop and think about it for a few seconds. This is why I don’t believe the upcoming November elections will make a dime’s worth of difference in the course of this country…until the people become educated, and this knowledge is EASILY understood (I am new to Austrian Economics, and as a medical student, have a darn hard time trying to even get the basics), then they will continually vote for these corrupt politicians who will give them more “stuff”.

Watched some of the movie “Gladiator” last night, and found it appropriate when the two senators were discussing how the new emperor would keep the commonfolk entertained with death…with games….with what-have-you…all the while continuing with his damaging policies and wars…and the people would love him all the while.

Sounds a bit like America…

Allen Weingarten April 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Gordon, thanks for your support, as well as for saying that people must become educated with knowledge that is EASILY understood. You are the first person on this blog who did not dismiss my request for clarity, either on grounds that our loss is the fault of government, or that Austrian economics is already simplified.

However, you are new to Austrian economics, so after learning a lot of esoteric complexity, you might conclude that ‘We are not responsible for any of our losses, so we have nothing to learn.’

As to the term ‘common sense’, it is ‘common’ since we all have it (even when it is denied), and ‘sensible’ since it is sensed and palpable, so it is known, rather than in need of indoctrination.

David Hindmarsh April 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Ref choosing our leaders. I have a son that was nearing an end to six years of military service to
include DUTY in the Mideast for which he received an Air Medal in support of combat missions.
My son got involved in the 2008 presidential election out of love for country and hate for war.
He supported Obama in hopes of getting us out of the Iraq war and seeing political improvements
in Wash DC. My son was idealistic and an ideal US citizen embracing a real hope for CHANGE.
I am a Vietnam Vet and retired military who supported McCain. Inspite of our differences in the
area of politics, my son and I had a close, supportive relationship. As he neared discharge from
the military, he planned to use his GI Bill to continue his education much as I did after I returned from Vietnam. My son voted for Obama, entered Law School and was on track to gain education
and opportunities which would help him become an even better citizen making a contribution to
society and his country. Now, he is disappointed with Obama and politics, and he is considering
joining the Iraq Veterans for Peace. Next month he completes his first year of law school, but he
is so cynical with politics and the government that he is contemplating dropping out of law school.
My son did the best he could to influence CHANGE by supporting the candidate of change, and
by entering law school so that he might make a diffenence some day. Now he is pessimistic, sadly.

Cybertarian April 19, 2010 at 12:22 pm


“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”

An idea which becomes alive and can speak for itself !!! Now that would be powerful !!!

An idea which would be more than just dead media, an Idea which by itself debates and spreads it’s own propaganda in the name of freedom, free market capitalism and private property.

Raimondas April 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Good idea alongside good army G(Ch)engis Khan has carried on.

Paul in Lakeview May 11, 2010 at 10:01 am

Should not you have written “in the traditionS of Mises and Rothbard”?

Also, you wrote that “as in the WHOLE history of liberalism, that means finding a way to throw off the yoke of central power.”

Well, not according to the gentle persuader from Austria. On the contradictory, he, Mises, wrote that “[t]he liberal therefore demands that the political organization of society be extended until it reaches its culmination in a WORLD STATE that unites all nations on an equal basis.” So it reads on p.148 of “Liberalism in the Classical Tradition”. He elaborated upon his vision of borderless statism two pages later when adding that,

“[t]his permits us to hope that from these extremely inadequate beginnings [i.e. the League of Nations] a WORLD SUPERSTATE really deserving of the name may some day be able to develop that would be capable of assuring the nations the peace that they require…..Liberal thinking must permeate all nations, liberal principles must pervade all political institutions…”.

World peace is the goal, he claimed, but clues elsewhere in “Liberalism” suggest the aggressiveness with which Tasers and jails would be used to protect the Misean paradise from a “small number of antisocial individuals” who’ll have no truck with a “global superstate”.

But Rothbard wanted stateless society, or so he wrote in the 1970s.

All hail organically formed associations. Down with coerced collectives. Down with Misean Fabianism, too.

TASR: 4.66, up 0.01, at 10:43 AM EDT, Tuesday, May 11.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: