From R.C. Hoiles
September 7, 1949
Ludwig von Mises
c/o Foundation for Economic Education
New York, N.Y.
Dear Mr. von Mises:
I just finished reading "Human Action". I think you have furnished complete ammunition to refute any socialist's or interventionist's arguments. I have remarked several times that your observation on the causes of the decline of ancient civilizations--a little over two pages--was worth the price of the book to anyone.
It seems to me that you are not very clear and rather contradict yourself in your discussion on pages 716 and 717 as compared with your last complete paragraph on page 755. In the latter point you recognize that there are laws that man must obey. It seems to me in the former pages you rather imply that man makes his own laws. If he makes them and they are out of harmony with laws that no man made and no man can unmake, or eternal principles, he is going to suffer.
The part of the book that you really did contradict yourself, and which is rather serious, is on page 872 where you make this statement: "In countries which are not harassed by struggles between various linguistic groups public education can work very well if it is limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic." I have repeatedly contended that even if pubic education was limited to these branches, the fact that some people were compelled to pay who did not want to have their children taught or who had no children, was teaching by example that the majority had a right to coerce the minority to pay for anything the majority wanted. If that is not the worse kind of government intervention, I do not know what intervention means. As Isabel Paterson said: "It is tyranny naked." And as Rose Wilder Lane said: "It is primary tyranny." When you get the people to believe that they can send the sheriff to make a man pay for what he doesn't want, you are certainly taking away from the consumer his right to spend his money the way he wants to.
When you make this one concession you are denying that our government is limited in what it has a right to do. It seems to me that intervention by the government is just the same thing as initiating force. Understand, I am not opposed to the use of force to stop someone from initiating force, but the government has no right to initiate force. The only purpose of a government is to stop people from intervening in an unhampered market and to stop people from initiating force to make someone pay for anything he doesn't want to pay for.
I am wondering whether Leonard Read read this and didn't call it to your attention that you were in this particular statement advocating something that was entirely contradictory to everything else you have said in the book. I would certainly be glad to have you explain how you can harmonize such a statement with the rest of the book. When you make such a statement, it looks to me as though you are setting yourself up as God, and that you know how far the government should go and how far it should not go. It is so serious that I think you should have a little slip printed up correcting this and have it put in the back of the book.
I think public schools are bound to destroy the country because they create public opinion that sanctions and endorses government intervention in an unhampered market.
I think with this exception the book is so sound that I hate to see its influence lessened by this mistake.
I think I will tell our columnists that I will send them this book and if they read it completely through I will make them a gift of the book, but if they do not read it through completely that they are to return it to me. I especially want to call their attention to the two pages starting on 761 giving your observations on the causes of the decline of ancient civilizations.
Enclosing check for $90.00 for which please send me nine copies.
Kindest regards, I am
Yours very truly
P.S. You quote "Thou shalt not kill". The original of this was "Thou shalt not murder". I am enclosing an article I ran on this very subject in our issue of June 18. I am also enclosing an article in today's issue on "Public Schools and Unemployment". This is in complete refutation of your statement that "public schools can work very well if they are limited to reading and writing and arithemetic."
Please check out merchandise related to this topic at the Vulgus e-store.
Return to Last Page, Proceed to Next Letter, Return to main Hoiles page. Go to Vulgus Home Page.