From Ludwig von Mises, September 23, 1949

From Ludwig von Mises, September 23, 1949

Mr. R.C. Hoiles
P.O. Drawer 1318
Santa Ana, California

Dear Mr. Hoiles:

Many thanks for your kind appreciation of Human Action. It gives me great satisfaction to know that you approve the main body of my thoughts.

There seems to be a difference of opinion between us with regard to the problem of public education. I want to emphasize that I did not express any opinion about the question of whether or not public education, when limited to the three R's, is a good or a bad thing. I merely stated the fact that it can work very well in countries not harassed by struggles between various linguistic groups. Why it is a disintegrating factor in countries in which there prevails a struggle between linguistic groups I pointed out in 1919 in my book Nation, Staat und Wirtschaft, and then again in 1927 in my book Liberalism, pages 100-102. (These two books are not available in English-language translations.) I omitted in Human Action any reference to this problem because it has no application to present-day America. I proceeded only to point out why public education, as soon as it begins to deal with matters implying social, economic and political doctrines, leads to an impasse which must transform the schools into instruments of political indoctrination and propaganda.

Please kindly note that the chapter concerned does not deal with all the problems of education but only with the problem of teaching those subjects which cannot be treated without reference to highly controversial doctrines.

If one wants to enter into a scrutiny of the essential matters concerning public education, one has to write a voluminous book exclusively devoted to this issue.

You question the right of the majority of citizens “to make a man pay for what he doesn't want.” You quote Miss Paterson's judgment that this is “tyranny naked” and Mrs. Lane's dictum that this is “primary tyranny.” Now it is a fact that the “written or unwritten” constitutions of all free nations were and are based on the principle of decision by vote of the majority. I know only of one exception, the notorious “liberum veto” of the members of the Polish nobility (before 1791.) It is agreed by all students of history that this “liberum veto” was one of the major causes of old Poland's downfall.

The Constitution of the United States as well as the Constitutions of all 48 states have adopted the majority principle. As far as I know nobody ever advocated the substitution of the unanimity principle for the majority principle. It is in this country quite unconstitutional “to make a man pay for what he doesn't want.”

The objections to be raised against those duly promulgated statute laws which you and I both consider as harmful cannot be justified by recourse to an alleged principle of unanimity. There [sic] must be based on the effects to be brought about by such laws. What I tried to demonstrate in my book is that interventionism and socialism are bad because they must inevitably result in the disintegration of social cooperation, in impoverishment, in material and capital decay and in the destruction of our civilization.

I do not believe that private control of the means of production and a free market economy are dogmas which must be accepted without proof. I think that it is necessary to demonstrate why they are the only principles which can secure the preservation of a civilized and prosperous community of men. I think that it is necessary to show clearly why the socialists' and interventionists' declarations to the contrary are erroneous and why the adoption of their ideas must inevitably spell disaster.

I read with great interest your keen observations about “thou shalt not kill.”

I spelt praxeology because this is the only spelling I found in the writings of those authors who used the term in the same sense I use it. I am astonished to learn that the Webster dictionary spells it with an “i”. In Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (fifth edition) the word is not mentioned.

Thanking you again for your letters, I remain
Yours very truly.

I suppose that the Yale Press has already sent you the 9 copies of Human Action you ordered.

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