Swiss Mises Institute

Dienstag, 21. Mai 2013 von Patrik B. Vonlanthen zu Institut

Some thoughts from the Swiss Mises Institute

Liberty, property and peace – the meme of the Swiss Mises Institute – proved to be of relevance for the world since our inception in 2010; and already long before. As simple as this principle may sound, it is an essential building block of a free society. Does one enjoy the freedom to do as one pleases? What rules does one need to respect? On what basics do we live most peacefully together? Questions, we often raise to ourselves and others – and immediately answer by expressing our respective understanding through our acting every single day. Drawing from the meme let us clarify how we basically approach these terms.

Liberty meant different things in different times. Coining economic freedom as core of the envisioned liberty the Swiss Mises Institute is well-grounded on elaborations which Ludwig von Mises and others in this lineage brought forward in their works. I.e. the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society. The individual is able to choose his career, he is free to do what he wants to do...freedom really means the freedom to make mistakes.[1] As soon as the economic freedom which the market economy grants to its members is removed, all political liberties and bills of rights become humbug.[2]

Property starts with our own body and mind. Or simply the inalienable right to life. Ultimately, this leads to the foundation of any and every civilization, which is private ownership, especially of the means of production. Whoever wishes to criticize modern civilization, therefore, begins with private property.[3]

Peace is derived from the essential teaching of liberalism. Social cooperation and division of labor can be achieved only in a system of private ownership of the means of production, i.e., within a market society, or capitalism. All the other principles of liberalism, democracy, personal freedom of the individual, freedom of speech and of the press, religious tolerance, peace among the nations are consequences of this basic postulate. They can be realized only within a society based on private property.[4] That Liberalism aims at the protection of property and that it rejects war are two expressions of one and the same principle.[3]

Now, when a government sets out to abolish certain market prices it is inevitably driven towards the abolition of private property; there is no middle way between the system of private property in the means of production combined with free contract, and the system of common ownership of the means of production, or socialism. It is gradually forced toward compulsory production, universal obligation to labor, rationing of consumption, and, finally, official regulation of the whole of production and consumption.[5]

The Swiss Mises Institute is thus determined to continue voicing the needs for freedom from coercion, voluntary forms of exchange and a sound monetary system and aims to preserve values of liberalism rooted in the austrian school of economics in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises.

This does not come for free but is entangled in an ongoing power battle taking place time and again – where Switzerland is no exception. Political forces subdue and patronize citizens – their freedom to be, to think and to act. Still, democracy as we have it today is seen as the ultimate, absolute form of societal coexistence and the state thereby often purported as the unquestionably good shepherd in society.

But then what if one does not want to be an active part of the ruling democratic system? What if one does not want to support the predominant system in its form? Am I really free to do what I want if I am not only forced to acknowledge but to eventually become – to some extend – part of whatever political system is in place, wherever?

We are happy to belong to an even larger group of similar institutes we gladly find nowadays all over the world – quite boundless.

This article was originally written for the annual report 2012 of the Ludwig von Mises Institute Europe (

[1] Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow (1979). Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Free Market Books, 1995.
[2] Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1949.
[3] Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis ,Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Press\Liberty Classics, [1922] 1979.
[4] Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, Spring Mills, Pa., Libertarian Press, [1944] 1985.
[5] The Theory of Money and Credit The Theory of Money and Credit, Indianapolis, Ind., Liberty Press\Liberty Classics, [1912] 1981.