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"Rothbard's Critique of Mises's Advocacy of Laissez Faire"

By J. Patrick Gunning

Abstract

Ludwig von Mises is often regarded as a "champion" of laissez faire. This characterization seems to contradict Mises's clear statement that economics is value free. The aim of this paper is to resolve this apparent contradiction. We accomplish this by distinguishing, as Mises did, between the advocacy of specific laissez-faire policies and the advocacy of a laissez-faire ideology vis-à-vis the alternative ideologies of socialism and interventionism. Mises argued that the logic of a value-free economics could be used to show that socialist and interventionist policies would not achieve a goal that the socialists and interventionists implicitly or explicitly aim to achieve, that of progress in terms of material wealth for the members of society. Thus, Mises resolved the contradiction by shifting the debate from the welfare analysis of particular policies to a logical analysis of the ends of a particular ideology and the means available to achieve those ends. Copyright 2005 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc..

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