Posts Tagged With: optimism

Be Merry!

No matter who wins tonight, it is difficult to be anything but despondent.  So let’s remember the example of two of the greatest (and most stylistically different) conservative and libertarian optimists.

G.K. Chesterton:

The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live.

Ludwig von Mises:

This pessimistic point of view is completely mistaken in its estimate of the influence which rational and quiet reflection can exercise on the masses. . . . The power of Socialism too, is like any other power ultimately spiritual; and it finds its support in ideas proceeding from the intellectual leaders, who give them to the people. If the intelligentsia abandoned Socialism its power would end. In the long run the masses cannot withstand the ideas of the leaders. True, individual demagogues may be ready, for the sake of a career and against their better knowledge, to instill into the people ideas which flatter their baser instincts and which are therefore sure to be well received. But in the end, prophets who in their heart know themselves to be false cannot prevail against those filled with the power of sincere conviction. Nothing can corrupt ideas. Neither by money nor by other rewards can one hire men for the fight against ideas.

In this spirit of cheer, we read about Chesterton’s distributist followers:

The formal business of the League was followed by after-meetings in the general bar of the Devereux, where an account by one of the members describes pint pots banging on the tables and members ‘shouting texts of St. Thomas at each other, calling on the people of England for the overthrow of their taskmasters, and a return to the religion of their forefathers.’

There was also much singing. ‘I have always,’ writes Titterton, ‘regarded this singing as an essential part of Distributism.’

Likewise, while living in Vienna, Mises hung out with a merry group of economists who, at their regular meetings, would write and sing their own songs, with (translated) words like this:
I have a point of doctrine
That you should really hear.
Attempt a refutation
But you will not come near.
I call myself a liberal,
But not from days of yore.
I say all things differently
Than those who came before.
A liberal anyone can be
But in Vienna alone the reasons see.
I know this ’cause marginal utility
Sheds proper light on economy;
I know this ’cause marginal utility
Sheds light on economy.
Since I’ve come to political consciousness, Austrian economics is enjoying a renaissance, the center-left is pushed into the defensive position of lamenting “anti-government extremism,” Ron Paul inspired a whole generation of young activists, the tide keeps turning against drug prohibition, the most populous state in the union essentially nullified the Supreme Court’s awful Gonzales v. Raich decision, while legal academics quake that the Supreme Court could be entering a new libertarianish “Lochner era,” and F.A. Hayek and Ayn Rand’s books top the Amazon best-seller lists.
That seems like cause for cheer.  Sure, tonight the statists will be triumphant.  But in the long run, it is cliched but true that…
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