Masters of Destiny, Pawns of Fate

The utilitarian economist…does not ask a man to renounce his well-being for the benefit of society. He advises him to recognize what his rightly understood interests are. In his eyes, God’s magnificence does not manifest itself in busy interference with sundry affairs of princes and politicians, but in endowing his creatures with reason and the urge toward the pursuit of happiness.

Ludwig von Mises brings up an excellent point in Human Action.  The Marxists argue that everything is subjective, that there is no such thing as the pursuit of truth for its own sake. There are always interests behind the motives of progress or human actions.

This ties in with the Hegelian notion that the world turns and progresses independent of human will and action. Progress creates itself independent of human beings. Human beings are  merely vessels to be used by the Weltgeist.  Marx goes further with this idea and posits that class wars are inevitable and inexorable.

Yet Mises points out the absurdity of such claims with a simple anecdote. The Marxists would say that all scientific and technological advances were driven by the desire for profits. Bacteriological research created by demand from the agricultural and food service industry to improve the quality of cheeses and wines, etc. The research was not driven by a desire to improve the medical sciences and cure people of diseases.

Mises argues that human action cannot be so narrow in its motive nor in its goals. History teaches us that many useful inventions were discovered by accident.  We may have designed a particular technology with one goal in mind but have it applied to whole other fields of utility. Likewise, we cannot know the benefits or harms of an invention until it is created.

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