A nice gift from the WSJ today, the 125th anniversary of Mises:
Lula may well be innocent, as he claims, of any involvement in the plethora of scandals now swirling around his party. But it is also true that if corruption has blind-sided him, he has only his own politics to blame. It has been the life work of Brazilian socialists — of which the PT are among the most hardcore — to empower the state, without limits, as an enforcer of “social justice” through the wholesome work of politicians and bureaucrats. Now they are reaping what they’ve sowed: a system that breeds corruption by its very nature, as von Mises warned more than a half-century ago….
Long before von Mises wrote his masterpiece “Human Action,” Founding Father James Madison warned that governments without limits are bound to become abusive. “All men having power ought to be mistrusted,” he wrote. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”…
Slow economic growth and corruption are but two offspring of the monster government in Brasilia that has badly damaged Lula’s legacy. Von Mises predicted it: “The advocates of interventionism pretend to substitute for the — as they assert, ‘socially’ detrimental — effects of private property and vested interests the unlimited discretion of the perfectly wise and disinterested legislator and his conscientious and indefatigable servants, the bureaucrats.” In the world of the anticapitalists, he explained, “only those on the government’s payroll are rated as unselfish and noble.”
Von Mises anticipated the outcome: “Unfortunately the office-holders and their staffs are not angelic. They learn very soon that their decisions mean for the businessmen either considerable losses, or — sometimes — considerable gains.” In other words, buying influence is normal when influence has a cash value. This is what one Brazilian family did when it allegedly paid kickbacks to politicians who helped it secure contracts for medical equipment.