Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Thursday, July 29, 2004

Mises tackles Moore (figuratively speaking)
Written by: Beck

Erich Mattei, writing today's daily article for the Mises Institute, takes on the issue of Michael Moore's film. On the surface, one might fear that the Mises folks would fall in line with Moore. After all, the Austrian school of economics founded by von Mises holds as one of its central conclusions that offensive war is never justifiable. Moore, as a vicious opponent of the war, would seem on the surface to support that cause. Indeed, Mattei opens his article as follows:
When has there been a single piece of art, theater, or literature that has had such a profound impact on politics as Michael Moore's latest film, "Fahrenheit 9/11"? Released at a pivotal time in both international affairs, in the wake of a much-debated military action in the ever-uneasy Middle East, and domestic politics, on the eve of the United States presidential election for the most powerful office in the world, the film has caused an unprecedented raucous. Moore is a teacher to millions.

The reason for this response is simple, for Moore's film strikes a universal chord within the consciousness of people from all cultures, classes, and ideologies: the fear of power and the love of freedom. The single greatest asset, and indeed only legitimate premise, of Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" is that it publicizes the coercive, grim face of the inevitable impoverishment that is the result of warfare. It investigates the rapid growth of the United States government and its trend of trampling the rights of individuals, and the corporatism that is spawned out of the close ties between big government and big business, especially in wartime.
There remains one overwhelming problem, however: Moore is most certainly not a supporter of the Libertarian state which the Mises folks would like to see come about. While Moore might join them in opposition to the military-industrial complex, he most certainly is not a brother-in-arms as it were.

Some people in this world are happy to make alliances of convenience, and they're happy to embrace the maxim, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." The alliance between Stalin and Hitler at the beginning of World War II is a classic example. The only thing Hitler hated more than communism was Jews, after all. Nonetheless, Hitler was never one to back down from opportunism or to shy away from making compromises in the name of military expediency. The question, then, is where does the Mises Institute fall? While I am no fan of many of the Mises school's conclusions, I can happily report that they stand on pure principle. They conclude that while the message is important, the messenger is equally so.
The "freedom" favored by Moore and those of his ideological orientation is the "freedom" of government to tax, regulate, and grow so long as it is managing economic, social, and cultural life. Free market capitalism is positively the only manifestation of the natural right that each individual has to the ownership of oneself. It is also the system that Moore, a self-proclaimed civil rights activist, undeniably rejects with much conviction. For capitalism is the only system wherein consensual acts between consenting individuals are permitted, be they civil or economic.

[...] Therefore, one must ask: is any credit due to Moore, and if so, how much? Consider this historical analogy: a German Neo-Marxist in the 1930s-40s making a film on the terrors of the Nazi rise to power. The film would speak of the obvious, and even do great good, but the motives and ends are almost just as bad or worse.

Until Moore and his like reconsider their stance on the many forms of welfare statism they support, they will continue to be everything but the advocates of freedom they would like the public to think they are, and the philosophical framework of their bantering will yield not freedom from power but merely a shift in the ideological justification for power itself.
For further discussion, you can always check out the Mises Institute's blog.

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John Beck

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