On the Crucial Role of Unobvious Virtues

When it turns out that the greatest enemy of truth is not falsehood, but gibberish, it turns out that the greatest intellectual virtue is not deductive brilliance or factual erudition, but common sense. When it turns out that the greatest enemy of decency is not hatred, but arbitrariness, it turns out that the greatest moral virtue is not kindness or mercy, but perseverance. When it turns out that the greatest enemy of good taste is not vulgarity, but ostentation, it turns out that the greatest aesthetic virtue is not elegance or refinement, but moderation. And when it turns out that the greatest enemy of civilization is not barbarity, but infantilism, it turns out that the greatest cultural virtue is not sophistication, but integrity.

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Word, Action, and Entrepreneurship

The Mengerian-Misesian tradition in economics is also known as the causal-realist approach – in other words, it studies the causal structure of economic phenomena conceived of as outgrowths of real human actions. Thus, it finds verbal descriptions and declarations economically meaningful only insofar as they can be linked with demonstrated preferences and their causal interactions. In this paper, I investigate how the approach in question bears on topics such as the economic calculation debate, deliberative democracy, and the provision of public goods. In particular, in the context of discussing the above topics I focus on market entrepreneurship understood as a crucial instance of “practicing what one preaches” in the ambit of large-scale social cooperation. In sum, I attempt to demonstrate that the Mengerian-Misesian tradition offers unique insights into the logic of communicative rationality by emphasizing and exploring its indispensable associations with the logic of action.

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A One-Sentence Recipe for Civilizational Revival

Today’s anti-civilization is a mix of economic authoritarianism (“do whatever you are told”) and social infantilism (“be whatever you want”). Civilization requires the very opposite: a mix of economic libertarianism (“do what you want”) and social maturity (“be what you ought”).

Hence the following one-sentence recipe for civilizational revival: get rid of scientism and “postmodernism” in favor of Aristotelian Thomism, get rid of legal positivism in favor of natural and common law, and get rid of social democratic statism in favor of classical liberalism/libertarianism.

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Modern Civilization: Impressive, but Not Great

Modern civilization is uniquely capable of rebuilding great cathedrals, but it is uniquely incapable of building great cathedrals. It is capable of spectacular recreation, but it is spectacularly incapable of creation. It commands unprecedented resources, but it often uses them in an unprecedentedly unresourceful manner. It is remarkably long on qualitative potential, but remarkably short on qualitative achievement.

In other words, it is an all-purpose tool without a purpose: an embodiment not so much of a tragically necessary tradeoff, but of a tragically wasted opportunity. Thus, what it needs is not will, but discipline, not progress, but direction, not freedom from arbitrary discrimination, but freedom to prudent discrimination, and not unrestricted self-realization, but the unhampered pursuit of virtue.

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Entrepreneurial Innovation and Crony Corruption

It always starts with entrepreneurial innovators breaking new ground and establishing new avenues for the expression of individual liberty and private initiative. Then, as soon as some of the companies established by those innovators grow sufficiently large and influential, the biggest protection rackets operating in their respective territories (i.e., states and their military-bureaucratic regimes) stop fighting them and proceed to corrupting them with subsidies, “public contracts”, unofficial monopoly privileges, etc.

As a result, such companies become increasingly inefficient, unresponsive to the wishes of their clients, or downright opposed to their original mission statements. As soon as that starts happening, the representatives of political protection rackets start clamoring for imposing “regulations” on the whole industry – that is, subjecting it officially and comprehensively to the dictates of institutionalized aggression. Having been long since thoroughly corrupted, the high-ranking officers of the companies in question happily concur, thereby driving the last nail in the coffin of free competition in the industry under consideration. The ones who have opened new avenues of individual liberty are now all too willing to close them indefinitely.

This is what happened in the mature period of the Industrial Revolution, and this is what is happening now in the mature period of the Information Revolution. However, it follows from the very character of the Information Revolution that today we can be more aware than ever of the recurrent nature of this perfidious process. By the same token, we can also be more effective than ever in finally stopping its recurrence. Crony corporatism is an extension of statism, and statism is an enabler of crony corporatism – thus, tools and resources originally created to promote individual liberty (and knowledge about threats to it) must be used to their fullest in denouncing statism and its pseudo-market allies, lest they be converted into their opposites. If there has ever been a perfect time to renounce statism altogether and be particularly vocal and decisive about it, thereby possibly ending its corruption of libertarian entrepreneurialism, it certainly is right now.

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Trade War, War on Trade, and War for Trade

There is no such thing as a “trade war”, since trade is by definition a peaceful, mutually beneficial activity. However, there is such a thing as the war on trade – that is, the war on the entrepreneurial ethos, cheap and high-quality goods, and peaceful international relations. Fortunately, there is also such a thing as the war for trade – that is, the war on the institutionalized stupidity and malevolence known as politics – and it is a duty of conscience for all people of good will to incessantly and effectively wage the latter in order to avoid the ruinous consequences of the former. No less than global peace and prosperity are at stake.

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